06 November 2009

American Indian Heritage Month 2009

USA American Indian Heritage Month 2009 Links and Educational Resources
This list is being updated frequently. Please submit your links.










05 November 2009

Pres. Obama Reaches Out to American Indian Tribes

White House Tribal Nations Conference
President Obama; "I know you've heard this song from Washington before. I know you’ve often heard grand promises that sound good but rarely materialize, and each time you are told, this time will be different, but over the last few years I have had a chance to speak with Native American leaders across the county about the challenges you face and those conversations have been deeply important to me. I get it. I am on your side. I understand what it is to be an outsider. I was born to a teenage mother, my father left when I was two years old, leaving her, my mother and my grandparents to raise me. We didn’t have much, we moved around a lot so, even though our experiences are different, I, I understand what it means to be on the outside looking in. I know what it means to feel ignored, and what it means to struggle, so you will not be forgotten as long as I am in this Whitehouse. Working together we are going to make sure that the first Americans along with all Americans, get the opportunities they deserve, so with that if I am not mistaken I am in a position now to start signing the memorandum then we are going to do a little Q & A.



24 October 2009

Forgetting the Caribs of Trinidad

A stream of newspaper articles, and public comments on their contents, have been published over the past six months in Trinidad's Guardian newspaper. It has been a while since I have had a chance to cover the latest news, as reported by the media. Though not unexpected, some of the news is very striking about the degree to which the indigenous Caribs of Trinidad are suppressed, even while supposedly being celebrated, and forgotten even as they are commemorated. It seems that the authorities and elites in Trinidad are not content with any display of Caribness that goes beyond superficial performances and outright simulation. To some extent, the organized body of Caribs, the Santa Rosa Carib Community, is also responsible for buying into that system of official diversity management, whereby select groups are trotted out solely for the purpose of public performance, as if they were barely living, quasi-archaeological artifacts dancing in the state's cultural showcase. Now it seems that they are growing increasingly upset with the superficiality of the attention paid to them, but have not yet devised a strategy that does anything other than produce more of the same: more commemorations in place of any real transformation.
Mockery and Superficiality at the 5th Summit of the Americas
Brian MacFarlaneLet us begin with this year's Fifth Summit of the Americas (see also on Twitter). The first in a series of articles that touched on the Carib "presence" at the 5th Summit was Foreign delegates to get taste of local culture, by Michelle Loubon (3 April 2009). There is no note of potential controversy -- on the contrary, it seems that some much needed post-colonial revision will be presented:
In history classes, children learn that before Columbus came, T&T was inhabited by the Caribs and Arawaks. This is followed by the description of the Caribs as ‘warlike’ and the Arawaks as ‘peaceful.’ The Arawaks were decimated, but there remains a strong Carib community in the town of Arima—which diligently celebrates the Feast of Santa Rosa every year. For the 2009 Summit of the Americas, visiting US president Barack Obama and the other dignitaries will get a cultural history lesson on these indigenous peoples from reigning bandleader Brian Mac Farlane.

Their legacy would form part of the opening presentation, expected to take place at Hyatt Regency Hotel, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain on April 17. The show, expected to take 45 minutes, will include a 600-member cast. As Mac Farlane, who will embark on a journey to tell the story of Caribbean colonisation, said yesterday: “The story begins with the Caribs and Arawaks. They were the first people.
Yet many strong criticisms have come in from diverse quarters concerning the cultural representations of Trinidad mounted by the government and the artists and managers it hired for the event, specifically Brian MacFarlane (photo at left), a prominent Carnival bandleader (designer). In Indian culture left out opening ceremony, published 20 April 2009, and written by Devant Maharaj, Chairman of the Indo-Trinbago Equality Council (ITEC), he complains about "the virtual absence of the presentation of Indian culture." More than that, the cultural production mounted to open the 5th Summit seemed to be a celebration of colonialism, and otherwise a very "town-centric" production (focused on urban Trinidad, especially Port of Spain, the capital):
"When Indian culture is now being considered as part of the mainstream culture you selected to give pre-eminence to our former colonial overlords—French and English—that enslaved and dehumanised our people. The Indian component lasted for no more than a mere 45 seconds."
He adds in the same vein,
"It is hoped that on the next occasion you attempt to view the rest of T&T that exists beyond the lighthouse in Port-of-Spain to be considered for inclusion."
In a comment on the article, one person wrote: "Contrary to popular belief, other groups do exist in Trinidad and Tobago - Chinese, Syrians, Spanish, French Creoles, Douglas, Caribs and many more...more than the two groups who grapple and tousle for their dance in the national spotlight."

Indeed, the criticisms did come in from more quarters as well. In Summit of cultural mimicry and disgrace, by Trevor Burnett (26 Apr 2009), he writes: "T&T’s cultural contribution to the world at the opening ceremony of the Fifth Summit of the Americas was considered quite a disgrace in some quarters." What was especially alarming was the degree of deliberate fakery and simulation, putting on shadows in place of the real thing. Starting with steelpan, "Pan Trinbago president Patrick Arnold said, 'It was quite disappointing that persons were placed there (Friday’s opening ceremony) to mimic steelband. Can you imagine in the land where steelband was invented a live steelband could not be seen or heard?'." Burnett then asks "Are the Caribs dead?" and he reports the following:
Another ugly feature of the cultural ceremony was highlighted by the shaman (medicine man) of the Carib Community Cristo Adonis. Adonis said, “It was disgusting and quite a bitter pill to swallow with the disrespect shown to the First Peoples.

Here in T&T we boast of our Carib ancestry, yet the world was presented with people acting as Caribs. “I have no political allegiances, I simply work for the good of the Carib community. The world when viewing the cultural ceremony must think that the Caribs are dead. “For whoever is responsible, am I a living dead?” Adonis questioned.
The sharp, and justified, criticism coming from the Caribs is ignored or submerged by those who fell in love with the Summit's stock display of cliched Caribs, rather than actually living ones. For example, in Macfarlane did justice to the various cultures (23 April 2009), an unnamed writer -- a woefully common practice in the Trinidadian media -- wrote in glowing terms of the display that will be shown in the video below:
First of all, people fail to realise that this country originally belonged to the indigenous people and I am talking about the Amerindians—the Caribs and Arawaks. We must not forget that!

A people who came to this land are talking about being left out. How unfair to the people whose culture has been ignored, who this land belongs to. They have been left out for far to long, their culture was pushed to the background. The Amerindian culture is not parang alone; there is more to their culture. For years they have been fighting to be remembered but how many have heard their cries? You don’t hear them making statements about being left out. My great grandparents are Amerindians, not mixed but pure.

I was proud to see the opening prayer and blessing of the Summit done by the indigenous people of this land. If anyone has to talk about being left out, forgotten and pushed aside it is the indigenous people of this land.
On the one hand, it is true that the Santa Rosa Carib Community is frequently called upon to perform blessings to open official ceremonies organized by the state -- and this seems to have backfired: rather than gaining recognition, they were subsequently sidelined by a Carnivalesque production featuring mock Caribs.

(For more criticisms of the 5th Summit, see also: Millions for Summit opening while...The arts starve, Willi Chen, 1 May 2009. In some ways, much of the same discussion about how Caribs were treated and represented seems to be a repeat from last year's visit by Prince Charles and Camilla to the University of the West Indies -- see: Royal Visit to UWI Highlights Lingering Colonialism (06 March 2008), and, Offering Earth.)

Now see the so-called First Peoples segment of the opening ceremony (see from minute 2:34):

Celebrating Conquest

Residents of Moruga and surrounding areas re-enact the discovery by Christopher Columbus of Trinidad with an elaborate ceremony on the Punta de la Playa beach. Photo: Rishi Ragoonath

In the village of Moruga on Trinidad's south coast (see map below), a peculiar practice is staged each August 1st: the enactment of Christopher Columbus' landing in Trinidad in 1498. In previous years, the Santa Rosa Carib Community received at least one invitation to mount a protest at the event, which did not happen, especially because August 1st is the date of a key public event in the Carib Community itself.

View Larger Map

In Villagers swarm beach for biggest event in Moruga (2 Aug 2009), Sascha Wilson produces a curious report that one hopes was not the narrative offered at the event by the organizers. She writes:
"It was around 3 pm yesterday when the Caribs and Arawaks observed three ships—Santa Maria, Pinta and Nina—coming ashore. Armed with spears they stood ready to defend their land. When the ships carrying Italian-born explorer Columbus came on shore there was a clash between the indigenous peoples and his army. The army overpowered and captured the natives."
Now the key thing to note about this statement is that it is factually wrong, almost in its entirety. Columbus had no army with him. There was no clash on the shore. The natives were neither overpowered nor captured. The ships were two, not three, and they were not the ships from his 1492 voyage, some of which did not survive 1492. And Columbus could not have been "Italian-born" because at the time Italy did not even exist.

Maybe the Caribs really ought to protest the event, for its slavish commemoration of conquest, and for the sheer ignorance produced in the form of the dominant narrative of the event.

The offenses multiply, however. In Trini wife begs for her husband, by Francis Joseph (14 Oct 2009) we read this comment: "The only true Trinis are the Caribs and Arawaks. Everyone else came from either Africa, India, China, Europe or the Americas. The only Caribs I'm seeing these days are in bars wearing a blue label, and the only Arawaks are chickens in plastic bags." The writer here refers to Carib Beer and Arawak Chicken, and says those are the only real Caribs and Arawaks left.

Blessing Development?

In Amerindians bless burial grounds in Sando (22 Oct 2009), Yvonne Webb tell us of an event in Trinidad's second-largest city, San Fernando, where the Caribs from Arima were called upon to produce an official blessing of a construction site, that may or may not be an old Amerindian burial ground. In the piece, we see some of the contradictory pressures that the Carib leadership tries to manage: on the one hand, acknowledging the potentially offensive trangression (which we are told others had raised as a problem), and on the other hand, not wanting to rock the boat. Hence, out come the colourful costumes and prayers once more.

Members of the Amerindian community put on a dance during Tuesday’s ceremonial blessing of the grounds on St Vincent Street, San Fernando, believed to be a former Amerindian burial
ground. Photo: Rishi Ragoonath
Indigenous people from Arima, Guyana and Suriname, wearing their native dress, created quite a stir on Tuesday when they blessed the grounds on St Vincent Street, San Fernando, believed to be a former Amerindian burial ground.

Some stakeholders have raised objections to the construction on sacred grounds. Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs, Junia Regrello, said there was no evidence that it was an Amerindian burial ground, but in the face of concerns raised, the project was temporary halted to undertake an investigation to see how authentic the claims were. After consultation with the Amerindian community, they agreed to bless the site so work could proceed. “We don’t want to offend any community,” Regrello said.

Work is expected to resume today, he added. Led by Chief Ricardo Bharat-Hernandez, the Amerindians called on the great Spirits to consecrate the grounds and forgive any disruptions which may have been caused by the construction. Visiting High Priest from Suriname Harold Taweroe, also led a song and dance around a container filled with dirt, and a half of a calabash filled with water, as the Native Indians smoked their peace pipe and shook their chac-chacs to complete the ritual. Bharat-Hernandez, Deputy Mayor of Arima, said the site, on which a basketball court was presently constructed, may have been an Amerindian cemetery. “I have asked for evidence, but no one could give that evidence. Burial grounds are very sacred, and in the absence of concrete evidence, we performed a simple ritual, as if it were a burial ground, to appease the Spirits and ask the creator to bless what is happening here now,” he said.

Bharat-Hernandez said the First People had no intention of stopping any development of the community. He said he was happy to hear Regrello say they were about putting people first and his intention to create a shrine or special place to preserve whatever remains or artefacts they may find. Bharat-Hernandez also used the opportunity to call on government to recognise the First People and put them in their rightful place. He said all of the other people who came to T&T has been recognised in many ways, but the First People, in spite of their contribution, had not. “Here we are concerned about the remains of our ancestors, but we have living indigenous people across the world and in our region and we are in a struggle for meaningful recognition.” He said without that recognition, a very important cultural heritage would be lost. “The Minister said we put people first, well I want to tell him to put the First People in their rightful position,” he said."
It does seem that no evidence was provided that the area concealed a burial ground, but what seems less clear is the extent to which the authorities went about finding evidence. What is also important to note is the Carib chief, Bharath Hernandez, repeating and renewing his calls for recognition. This is interesting, because on many occasions, when pointing to their successes as a community, official recognition is in fact one of the things they list as having won, with official recognition from the parliament, cabinet, and an annual subvention from the government.

I sense that, where strategy is concerned, the Carib leadership may be stuck in a rut. Previously, they explicitly rejected the idea that there ought to be a public holiday to commemorate the Caribs of Trinidad, opting instead for what they won: an annual day of observance, called Amerindian Heritage Day (on 14 October each year). That has now changed:

Another Holiday on the National Calendar

Carib shaman (medicine man) Cristo Adonis, with hat at right, at
Hyarima statue, Arima, conducting the smoke ceremony during the
World Indigenous Day celebrations last year. PHOTO: TREVOR BURNETT

In Amerindians call for public holiday (20 Oct 2009), Radhica Sookraj writes:
Indigenous people have called on the Government to give them a one-time public holiday as they celebrated Amerindian Day last Wednesday. After dawn, the indigenous community held a ritual ceremony at the monument area of the Arima Savannah, where they paid tribute to their ancestors who were killed by the Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century. Following the ceremony, chief/ president of the Santa Rosa Carib Community Ricardo Barat Fernandez led his people in a street procession through Arima. Spectators stopped to enquire about the celebration and many expressed interest in knowing about the history of the indigenous people.
Please note that the correct name of the Carib chief is Ricardo Bharath Hernandez. Sookraj tells us that,
In an interview, Fernandez said a public holiday should be given by the Government to honour the contribution of the Amerindians. “People are not aware of our history and that is why we need a public holiday. We can even have a one-off public holiday. People are working and busy and it’s difficult to reach them so that they could support this. The indigenous heritage needs a public holiday or a one off, so the country can stop and recognise our indigenous past,” Fernandez said. He said if a public holiday was given, the Carib community could organise a heritage day."
Also noteworthy was the theme of environmental conservation raised by the chief:
The Carib chief also said T&T could learn a lot from the legacy of the Amerindian people, as they practised conservation and respect for life. “We know that they practised conservation in the way they treated the forests. They did not destroy the forests. They hunted enough to feed themselves. They also had knowledge on the medicinal value of plants, as well as a strong, vibrant agricultural tradition,” Fernandez said. He explained that people could also learn from the belief systems of the Amerindians, as they honoured their ancestors and showed respect for family life.
History, the chief, claimed is still being preserved within the Carib Community:
Fernandez said some indigenous instruments were still being used within the Carib community today. “Some people have lost interest in some of the traditional utensils but we still use the couleve, a long woven basket to strain the bitter cassava,” Fernandez said. Fernandez said the indigenous history was rich and needed to be preserved."
In an unrelated piece, Elgin Marbles: Tip of art repatriation issue (22 Jun 2009), a comment by one person echoed the call for greater recognition -- for overdue recognition, but of a different and more radical sort (assuming the writer was being sincere): "I surely hope that [Prime Minister] Patrick [Manning] will give back Trinidad to us living Arimian Caribs. As far as I read the Spaniards took it from us without paying us and the Picton took it from Spain without a fight. --Rik Hansel."

Without a Dance, They are Completely Forgotten

This story, Aripo residents feel trapped in natural paradise (16 May 2009), byYvonne Baboolal, concerns a district that I visited with Cristo Adonis and his work mates, Aripo (map below), where he has worked on a daily basis for years. What I read in the article struck me as a very accurate description.

In the context of the articles above, it is loaded with many ironies. On the one hand, a Carib chief blessing development, and here is a community -- not organized as a Carib community as such, but with many people of Amerindian ancestry -- that has seemingly not benefited from anything more than temporary handouts. They have not stood in the way of development, they have been completely sidelined by it. They are not called upon to perform ceremonial dances or formal prayers, they have no show troupes, they are not displayable -- and hence they remain largely forgotten. Read Baboolal's description:
Last Sunday, the Sunday Guardian visited the tiny village where there are some 500 residents, many of whom are descendants of the indigenous Carina (Caribs) and Locono (Arawaks). Aripo was the name of a flat baking stone on which the indigenous people made bread, said Christo Adonis from the Amerindian Project Committee. While they live in the midst of a natural paradise, the Sunday Guardian got many tales of transportation woes, general government neglect, unemployment and underdeveloped human resources.

Villagers depend heavily on the mini-mart for their grocery supplies. “We have to hire somebody to go outside and get supplies. None of the big trucks, like Kiss, come in here,” Blackburn said. School absenteeism was also common in Aripo, for the same reason. There is no school bus, no public transport and few private taxis, students attending school in Arima and environs often stay at home because they cannot find a way out.

In Aripo it’s a common sight to see residents hopping rides on the back of pick-up trucks that go in and out of the village for “greens.” Villagers are still waiting on the bus that Minister of Works and Transport Colm Imbert announced was assigned to Aripo a few months ago. “That we are yet to see. No bus ever came here,” Valentine said. Brian Juanette, head of communications at the Public Transport Service Corporation, admitted that such an announcement wwas made but said, “it as not feasible.” “The roads at Aripo made it very difficult for any of our buses to operate there. No maxi-taxi is willing to run the route either.”

View Larger Map

  • What strategies for representing themselves, and defending their rights, should the Caribs adopt?
  • Should they boycott all future requests to perform at functions organized by the state?
  • What should "recognition" mean?
Related posts:

09 October 2009

Fundraiser for the Mayan Center for Peace

By Francisco J. Gonzalez

Centro Maya Para la Paz, or Mayan Center for Peace, is a not for profit NGO in Cantel , Guatemala , that is working to facilitate educational and economic opportunities to indigenous Kiche Maya communities. Founded by well-known Maya advocate Arcadio Salanic, the Centro is fulfilling an important role in providing tools for sustainable, culturally-specific and environmentally- sensitive development for the indigenous people of Guatemala .

However, the Centro needs our support in acquiring basic resources to continue with its mission. Arcadio has contacted his friends here in Minnesota and elsewhere to request help in purchasing a computer, printer, a digital camera, and also to fund internet and telephone services for their office as well as related costs.

I had the opportunity to meet Arcardio when he briefly had an office in Minneapolis, and was able to see first hand the documents, newspaper articles and testimonials recording his work and achievements as an advocate for the disenfranchised, speaker for the voiceless, and as a keeper of traditional Kiche Maya wisdom.

See link below for some information about Arcadio’s career:


The Centro Maya Para la Paz is partnering with LA-MANO Inc, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization located in Mankato , MN , to assist in the collection of funds in the US and their remittance to Guatemala .

For more information, see the link below


or contact

Victoria Salas
Executive Director
1400 Madison Ave. Suite 218
P.O. Box 3373
Mankato, MN 56002-3373
phone: (507) 344.8361

Email: tochtli67@hotmail. com

On behalf of the Centro Maya Para la Paz and LA-MANO Inc., I want to thank you for considering donating to this very worthy cause. Monetary contributions in any amount or in-kind donations will be greatly appreciated.

En la lucha,

Francisco J. Gonzalez

08 October 2009



Indigenous Day of Remembrance

Indigenous Day of Remembrance

Sunday, October 11 2009, 1:00pm - 5:00pm

Memorial Service

Host: NYC Indigenous Community and beyond

Sunday, October 11, 2009
1:00pm - 5:00pm

Merchants Gate in Central Park
(across from Columbus Circle- 60st. & Broadway)

Manhattan, NY

*This event is endorsed by;
The United Confederation of Taino People
The Bohio Atabei Caribbean Indigenous Women's Circle

Location: Merchants Gate in Central Park (across from Columbus Circle- 60st. & Broadway) Manhattan, NY

Contact: 6464065916 or iukibuel@yahoo. com

07 October 2009

From the Offices of the UCTP

Should the US continue to honor Columbus Day?

Takahi (Greetings):

It is my hope that you are all well and in good spirit. I was recently alerted to a website that has a online poll entitled "Should the US continue to honor Columbus Day?"

Currently, the YES column is winning by about a hundred votes. As some of you may be aware, the United Confederation of Taino People (UCTP) has long protested this U.S. federal holiday. With this in mind, and on behalf of the UCTP, I encourage you to take part in this online poll and record your opinion.

You can find the poll at: http://www.helium. com/debates/ 102346-should- the-us-continue- to-honor- columbus- day

I am also providing a link to an article I wrote on this subject in 2007. It deals with this subject from a Taino perspective.

You can find the article at:
http://uctp. blogspot. com/2007/ 10/opinion- columbus- day-celebrates. html

I look forward to your thoughts.

Oma bahari, nabori'daka
(With respect, I am at your service),
Mukaro Agueibana (Roberto Borrero),
President, UCTP-OIRRC

04 October 2009

Sacred Maya Calendar 2012 Prophecy

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Traditional K'iche Maya spiritual elder, Don Alejandro Perez Oxlaj, from Guatemala visits Pittsburgh, and shares the message of hope and reconciliation that is key to the sacred Maya Calendar 2012 prophecy. RICC shares these teachings with you courtesy of Taino elder Miguel Sobaoko Koromo Sague.

In these videos: Fernando Cardoza of Pittsburgh area's GREENBOUGH organization, Taino elder Miguel Sobaoko Koromo Sague, Don Alejandro Perez Oxlaj~principal K'iche Maya elder of Guatemala, and his translators: his wife, Elizabeth and Grandmother FlorDeMayo of the THIRTEEN INDIGENOUS GRANDMOTHERS.

Footage by Indigenous elder RAINBOW EAGLE of Zanesfield, Ohio in 2007. Final editing Taino elder Miguel Sobaoko Koromo Sague Sept 2009.

03 October 2009

Caguana Cerimonial Center Borinken

The recent political happenings in Puerto Rico have resulted in the closure of Taino cultural and ceremonial centers. This message came in today;

Les habla la Abuela Shashira primero reciban todos mis bendiciones. Les quiero invitar a una vigilia que se llevara acabo en frente del Centro Ceremonial de Caguana el 9 de Octubre del 2009 a las 7:30 A.M. debido a los recientes cierres de todos los centros ceremoniales. El Consejo General de Taínos Borincanos le ha propuesto que les permita trabajar en los centros voluntariamente para que asi permanescan abiertos para el turismo y publico general. Si no pueden estar con nostros pedimos que se unan en oracion ese dia. Tambien estaremos en manifestacion el 15 de Octubre a las 7:00 P.M. sobre el paro general que se llevara en Boriken ese dia. Que la Bendición de todos nuestros Ancestros y de todos los abuelos estén con ustedes de parte de la Abuela Shashira. Jan Jan Katú..

Greetings from grandmother Shashira and blessings to all. I want to invite you to a vigil that will take place in front of the Centro Ceremonial de Caguana on October 9, 2009 at 7:30 A.M. Due to the recent closures of all the ceremonial centers. El Consejo General de Taínos Borincanos has requested that they be permitted to voluntarily work the centers in order to keep them open to tourism and to the general public. We will also be meeting on October 15, 2009 at 7:00 P.M. regarding the general strike that will take place in Boriken that day. Blessings from our ancestors and grandfathers to you all and, of course, from Grandmother Shashira. Jan Jan Katu ..

15 August 2009

Ward Churchill: Colonialism is Genocide

The following video was recorded on Wednesday, 15 April, 2009, less than two weeks after Ward Churchill's momentarily successful lawsuit against the University of Colorado on the grounds of wrongful termination for constitutionally protected free speech. A jury decided in his favour, finding that he was terminated for exercising his right to free speech, and for no other legitimate reason. Last month, the judge in the case essentially vacated that decision, refused to reinstate Churchill to the position from which he had been unlawfully fired, and decided against compensation. The case continues, as Churchill appeals the judgment.

In April Ward Churchill traveled to Montreal and delivered an address at Concordia University. The entirety of his presentation, and most of his responses to comments are shown in the video.

Restitution for Aboriginal Australia

In a conservative and European-dominated society such as Australia, whose very basis of existence is premised on the expropriation of indigenous access to the land, an impassioned call such as Rev. Peter Adams' will likely rock many boats. The extensive press coverage of his statements in Australia is an indication of the salience achieved by his call. Here are some links and extracts:

Send all non-Aborigines back to where they came from
The Australian, 12 August 2009

Extract: "ALL non-Aboriginal Australians should be prepared to leave the country if the indigenous people want that, making restitution for the vile sin of genocide, an Anglican leader said last night. If they stayed, they would have to provide whatever recompense indigenous peoples thought appropriate, the Reverend Peter Adam said. 'It would in fact be possible, even if very difficult and complicated, for Europeans and others to leave Australia. I am not sure where we would go, but that would be our problem. No recompense could ever be satisfactory because what was done was so vile, so immense, so universal, so pervasive, so destructive, so devastating and so irreparable. The prosperity of our churches has come from the proceeds of crime. Our houses, our churches, our colleges, our shops, our sport grounds, our parks, our courts, our parliaments, our prisons, our hospitals, our roads are stolen property'."

Australia, the Aborigines, and restitution: Such an impossible task may help us focus on real ways to make amends
The Age, Barney Zwartz, 13 August 2009

Extract: "ANGLICAN theologian Peter Adam thinks that unless Australia's indigenous people give us belated permission, everybody whose forebears came after 1788 should decamp and return the land to its first inhabitants. In a public lecture on Monday, he said that if the non-indigenous stayed they should have to provide whatever recompense the indigenous thought appropriate for the genocide and theft they have suffered....The Christian concepts of repentance and restitution or recompense are profoundly radical. Adam's idea is in keeping with the biblical concepts, even if these are honoured more in the breach than the observance now that Christianity is so institutionalised."

Just recompense to Aboriginal people necessary: Anglican theologian
CathNews, 13 August 2009

Extract: "Principal of the Anglican theological Ridley College, Dr Peter Adam says Christians must consider appropriate recompense to Australia's Aboriginal peoples, who suffered European colonisation, church planting and nation-building....'Do churches have any responsibilities in these matters? Yes, because the land and wealth of churches came from land stolen from the indigenous people of Australia. The prosperity of our churches has come from the proceeds of crime'."

Peter Adam urges 'recompense' for Indigenous injustice
Christian Today, 11 August 2009

Extract: "In an address to be presented tonight, Dr Peter Adam, Principal of Ridley College in Melbourne, will call on Christians to consider appropriate “recompense” for the injustice suffered by Indigenous Australians as a result of European colonization, church planting and nation-building. Dr Adam will give the Second Annual John Saunders Lecture at 7.00 pm at Morling College, Macquarie Park, Sydney. The lecture will discuss Aboriginal land claims, the history of injustice against Indigenous Australians, and appropriate Christian responses including the question of recompense."


Personally, I rather like some of the important symbolic and political possibilities of national indigenization that are implied in Adam's vision. One aspect of his call involves seeking permission to stay. In Canada, where we use the label "First Nations" to refer to Aboriginals, one would think that they would have some say on who enters and stays, especially if by implication other people in Canada are "Second Nations," "Third Nations" and so forth (labels not in use). There should be some form of honorary Aboriginal citizenhip offered to all non-Aboriginal Canadians, which involves permission to stay in return for some acts of service and commitment to the First Nation that adopts them.

What do you think?

12 August 2009

Honduras: Indigenous Leaders Call for Return of Zelaya

Thanks to Rick Kearns, friend of the CAC, and Indian Country Today for the following article published 14 July 2009, that ties in with a previous post here: Garifunas Against the Coup in Honduras.

Indigenous leaders call for President Zelaya’s return

Originally printed at http://www.indiancountrytoday.com/global/50466647.html

The largest indigenous organizations in Honduras are calling for the immediate return of deposed President Manuel Zelaya, and they assert that the new administration is trying to hide the real reason for the coup, which was that the opposition feared a new constitution that could provide more rights and protections to indigenous and other Hondurans.

The groups also said the coup leadership was preventing indigenous people from protesting, forcing the military recruitment of children, active persecution of leaders and creating a “black list” of resistance leaders (including protest against the recently enacted suspension of the rights of free speech, free assembly, and protection against illegal search and torture.)

While mainstream coverage of the crisis has focused on objections made against the coup by most Latin American presidents, the Organization of American States, U.S. President Barack Obama and the United Nations, the indigenous peoples of Honduras have been active in expressing their outrage at the coup d’etat of June 28, when Honduran soldiers took Zelaya from his home at gunpoint, and put him on a plane headed for El Salvador.

According to press sources, Zelaya acted illegally in June when he pushed ahead for a non-binding referendum to be held in November along with regular elections. This referendum/survey would have asked Hondurans whether they wanted to convene a constituent assembly that could then rewrite the Honduran constitution. The National Congress and the Honduran Supreme Court ruled the referendum was illegal and that the president could not go ahead with the plan.

Zelaya persisted, and fired General Romeo Vasquez, head of the Armed Forces (and graduate of the U.S. School of the Americas), for refusing to deliver the ballot boxes to election sites.

Many press accounts emphasized the idea that the chief executive was interested in creating a new law to allow him to run again, and that he was a puppet of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. But Zelaya’s indigenous supporters are saying they were in favor of the referendum because it could give Native peoples a chance at re-writing the constitution to give them more rights and protections of their territories; and when the president was deposed, indigenous peoples reacted quickly.

From June 28 to July 5, indigenous groups like the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), the Indigenous Coordinating Body of Mesoamerica and the Caribbean (CIMCA) and MASTA or Moskitia United, issued press releases outlining a list of demands and concerns, all connected to Zelaya’s forcible removal by the military.

The groups publicized these positions in the many demonstrations that have occurred on an almost daily basis since June 28 (including the demonstration July 6 at the national airport that drew more than 100,000 people in favor of the president’s return).

Edgardo Benitez Maclin, a Tawahka leader and Regional Coordinator for CIMCA, responded to requests for comment by sending a series of press statements outlining the issues for Native peoples in Honduras. According to Benitez, the Lenca, Miskitu, Tawahka, Pech, Maya-Chorti, Tolupan, Garifuna, Creole, Nahoa and Chorotega peoples contributed jointly to each of the press releases.

The “Political Position of the Peoples” statement included a section about the groups’ desire for a new constitution. “We will never give up our historic struggle for reform of the political constitution of our country, in which it recognizes the multicultural and multilingual Honduras; the particular rights of our peoples; for a participative and inclusive democracy; the right to the free, prior and informed consent of our peoples. … as is established in the Treaty 169 of the UN and the UN Declaration on The Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

In another document, entitled “Public Condemnation,” the groups list eight complaints.

“The Army and National Police has not ceased in its harassment, beating, and threatening of indigenous peoples and has removed the right to free movement of those who seek to travel to the capital of Tegucigalpa to protest publicly and peacefully for the re-establishment of constitutional order and the return of President Manuel Zelaya.”

The CIMCA document states that the “… National Congress. … has suspended all of the constitutional guarantees. …” Along with that suspension media has been affected; according to the press statement issued separately by COPINH, “… the guarantee for free movement continues to be violated in that buses full of people continue to be detained along the highways. Also they have fortified the gag rule so that local and community radio stations or those commercial stations that wanted to present a version of the events that was different from that of the coup leaders were closed, destroyed or threatened.” These charges were echoed by the OAS’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in one of its press statements issued June 29, the day after the coup.

“The Office of the Special Rapporteur received information that since June 28, 2009, in Honduras, local and international media have been suffering severe limitations to freely accomplish their work. According to the information received, open broadcast media outlets have been closed; while other cable channels, such as Telesur and CNN en Español and other radios such as Globo, were banned from broadcasting.

“Moreover, energy was cut off, which prevented television and radio from broadcasting, as well as the access to the Internet. According to the information received, many reporters were attacked while they were working, and others were arbitrarily retained; such was the case of Adriana Sivori, Rudy Quiróz, and other members of Telesur team. Cartoonist Allan McDonald would have been detained with his 17-month-old daughter. Finally, it was informed that many journalists would have been receiving threats in order to make them stop reporting,” stated IACHR.

CIMCA and IACHR asserted that other human rights violations were occurring in connection with the coup. “We are also aware that they are recruiting young indigenous and rural men in isolated areas, mainly in the departments where most of the Lenca population lives,” read the CIMCA statement. “This action also violates the Honduran Constitution. Information also exists of a black list of leaders opposed to the coup, whom the military must arrest, torture, eliminate or incarcerate immediately.”

The IACHR highlighted some details of the accusations about detention and threats in another June 29 press release. “According to information received by the IACHR, military forces have been surrounding the house of Bertha Cáceres, member of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras. Military forces have allegedly also surrounded the house of César Ham, Representative in the National Congress by the Partido Unificación Democrática. The military also allegedly fired on Representative Ham’s house with machine-guns. Additionally, Edran Amado López, a journalist on the TV Channel 36 program ‘Cholusatsur,’ was allegedly detained and his whereabouts remain unknown.”

The CIMCA statement pointed out that what was happening recently was a throwback to a darker time in Honduran history.

“The military during the ’80s lead abominable operations against the civil populations, as is being done now by coup President Micheletti who is calling on these same men to be his advisors. This means that there is a latent and serious danger to the lives of all indigenous leaders and those of others in the social movements.”

As of press time July 7, no other updates had been sent by any indigenous groups.

Ecuador: Indian Federation Confronts Threats

Thanks to Indian Country Today's article by David Dudenhoefer "Ecuador’s Amazonian Indian confederation faces varied threats" (10 August 2009), from which the following was derived:

About 100 representatives of Ecuador's Amazonian Indian communities met to celebrate the inauguration of new leadership for the Confederation of Indigenous Nations of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE).

Among their latest concerns are "government’s promotion of mining, oil exploitation and hydroelectric projects in the Amazon threatens indigenous lands and natural resources."
“The spirit of our ancestors is present in all of our nations, and in the common idea that we need to defend our territory – our territory is not for sale. Our territory is protected by all of our nations, because we are part of our territory.”
Throughout the 1990s, CONFENIAE mounted massive demonstrations that led to negotiations. The government then recognized and legalized large indigenous territories in the Amazon. The organization suffered deep internal schisms when some of its leaders joined the government of President Lucio Gutierrez in 2003, later pushed from power from huge popular protests. As a result the group was discredited and its collaborating leaders left it bankrupt.

The new CONFENIAE leader, Tito Puanchir, a Shuar Indian, vows that they will never again form political alliances with ruling groups.

The new leadership notes that Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa is supervising the drafting of a constitution that recognizes Ecuador as a "pluri-national state" – a reference to the country’s 13 indigenous and afro-Ecuadorean minorities – also enshrining the rights of nature. However, Correa has opened the door to oil exploration and mining on or near indigenous land.
“There are plenty of reasons to say no to oil exploration here,” said former CONFENIAE president Domingo Ankuash, Shuar. He said 40 years of oil extraction in the northern Amazon has hardly benefited the region’s indigenous inhabitants, but all of them have suffered from the pollution caused by oil spills and poor disposal of toxic wastes.

“Eighty percent of the money from oil leaves the country, and most of the 20 percent that stays here is robbed by a few corrupt politicians. What little goes to the municipalities near the oil wells is spent in urban areas, so it doesn’t even reach the (indigenous) communities.”
Instead, what indigenous leaders want to promote is a vision of "good living": good health, clean water, a healthy environment and a strong culture.

Implementation of UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights

Thanks to the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) for relating this report. (Emphases were added below, and parts were abridged for publication on RICC.)

Joint Statement
Second session, Geneva
10-14 August 2009

Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Second session, Geneva
10-14 August 2009

Agenda Item 4(a): United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
(a) Implementation of the Declaration at the regional and national levels

Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Positive Initiatives and Serious Concerns

Joint Statement of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee); Assembly of First Nations; Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP); Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC); International Organization of Indigenous Resource Development (IOIRD); Tebtebba Foundation; Saami Council; International Indian Treaty Council (IITC); Consejo de organizaciones aborigines de Jujuy (COAJ); First Nations Summit; Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC); Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA - Australia); Na Koa Ikaika Kalāhui Hawai’i; Asian Indigenous Women's Network; Asamblea Mixe para el Desarrollo Sostenible; Servicios del Pueblo Mixe; Asociación de Autoridades Mixes; Chiefs of Ontario; Québec Native Women’s Association; Samson Cree Nation; Ermineskin Cree Nation; Montana Cree Nation; Louis Bull Cree Nation; First Peoples Human Rights Coalition (FPHRC); Union of BC Indian Chiefs; Koani Foundation; Assembly of First Nations of Québec and Labrador; Native Women’s Association of Canada; Indigenous World Association; Ke Aupuni Hawaii; Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers); International Work Group For Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA); KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives; Almáciga; Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights; Oceania HR.

1. Indigenous peoples and human rights organizations welcome this opportunity to contribute to the discussion on implementation at the regional and national levels of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

2. The Declaration is an historic human rights instrument that has universal application to countless Indigenous contexts in over 70 countries. It provides a principled and normative legal framework for achieving justice and reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has emphasized:

The Declaration is a visionary step towards addressing the human rights of indigenous peoples. It sets out a framework on which States can build or rebuild their relationships with indigenous peoples. The result of more than two decades of negotiations, it provides a momentous opportunity for States and indigenous peoples to strengthen their relationships, promote reconciliation and ensure that the past is not repeated.

3. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya, stated in his August 2008 report:
[The Declaration] represents an authoritative common understanding, at the global level, of the minimum content of the rights of indigenous peoples, upon a foundation of various sources of international human rights law.
4. The Declaration is the most comprehensive universal international human rights instrument explicitly addressing the rights of Indigenous peoples. It elaborates on the economic, social, cultural, political, spiritual and environmental rights of Indigenous peoples.

5. Indigenous peoples’ collective rights are human rights, as affirmed in the Declaration and other international and regional instruments. In its Agenda and Framework for the Programme of Work, the Human Rights Council has permanently included the “rights of peoples” under Item 3 “Promotion and protection of all human rights …” For decades, the established practice is to address Indigenous peoples’ collective rights within international and regional human rights systems.

6. Like other human rights instruments, the Declaration is necessarily drafted in broad terms. Its provisions can accommodate the different circumstances relating to Indigenous peoples – both now and in the future. This wide-ranging perspective enhances the effectiveness of the Declaration....

7. International treaty monitoring bodies are referring to the Declaration and using it to interpret the rights of Indigenous peoples and individuals and related State obligations. This practice underlines the significance of the Declaration and its implementation at all levels – international, regional and national.

… the Committee [on the Rights of the Child] urges States parties to adopt a rights-based approach to indigenous children based on the Convention and other relevant international standards, such as ILO Convention No.169 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

8. Even if a State voted against the adoption of the Declaration at the General Assembly, international treaty monitoring bodies are free to recommend that the Declaration “be used as a guide to interpret the State party’s obligations” under human rights treaties.

9. In terms of implementing the UN Declaration, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), specialized agencies and mandate-holders of special procedures are committed to making important contributions at various levels. For example, the OHCHR has confirmed: “The OHCHR's work is to assist States and indigenous peoples in implementing the Declaration”.

10. Thirty-one UN specialized agencies are represented in the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues (IASG).....

11. ....

Positive initiatives

12. ....

13. Within the Organization of American States (OAS), the UN Declaration is being used as “the baseline for negotiations and … a minimum standard” for the draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

14. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has stated that it is “confident that the Declaration will become a very valuable tool and a point of reference for the African Commission’s efforts to ensure the promotion and protection of indigenous peoples’ rights on the African continent.” Some aspects of the Commission’s “Draft Principles and Guidelines on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights” are reflective of the UN Declaration. In regard to Indigenous peoples’ rights to lands and natural resources, specific reference is made to the Declaration.

15. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has adopted the terms of reference for a new ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission for Human Rights (AICHR). While no specific reference is made to the UN Declaration, the guiding principles for the AICHR include “upholding the Charter of the United Nations and international law ... subscribed to by ASEAN Member States”. Thus, as part of international law, the Declaration appears to be included. As proposed by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, there should be explicit consideration of the Declaration, Indigenous peoples and their human rights issues:

The Forum recommends that ... the commission explicitly recognize indigenous peoples in its terms of reference. We look forward to a strong commission with full investigatory and implementation powers, which uses the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as its framework in dealing with indigenous peoples’ issues. The Forum also recommends that the commission establish a committee on indigenous peoples in addition to its proposed committees on migrant workers and women and children.

16. In the Americas, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has relied in part on the UN Declaration in determining unanimously that the Saramaka people have “the right to give or withhold their free, informed and prior consent, with regards to development or investment projects that may affect their territory”.

17. In Bolivia, the Declaration was adopted at the national level as Law No. 3760 of 7 November 2007 and incorporated into the new Constitution promulgated on 7 February 2009. Bolivia emphasizes that it “has elevated the obligation to respect the rights of indigenous peoples to constitutional status, thereby becoming the first country in the world to implement this international instrument”.

18. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the government has endorsed the Declaration. In addition, the “Constitution has reaffirmed in that regard the attachment of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to human rights and fundamental freedoms such as those proclaimed by the international legal instruments to which it has acceded.”

19. In the Arctic, a highly significant example of harmonious and collaborative implementation of the right to self-government and self-determination is taking place. In their March 2009 report to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Denmark and Greenland have reported on these initiatives under the agenda item on implementation of the UN Declaration. As of 21 June 2009, the new Greenland self-government regime has been in effect.

20. In Belize, the Supreme Court of Belize relied on the UN Declaration and other aspects of international and domestic law in upholding the land and resource rights of the Maya people.

21. In Australia, on 3 April 2009, the Labour government in Australia reversed the position of its predecessor and endorsed the Declaration. In the spring of 2009, New Zealand and the United States indicated that they are in the process of reconsidering their opposing positions.

22. Colombia abstained in the General Assembly vote on the Declaration. In a welcome development in April 2009, Colombia announced its endorsement of the Declaration.

23. Implementation of the UN Declaration is being further enhanced by the translation of this instrument into different Indigenous and other languages. Such actions promote human rights learning and education and can be highly beneficial for Indigenous communities in developing a human rights-based approach.

Serious concerns

24. With respect to implementation of the UN Declaration, the positions and actions of opposing States require careful scrutiny. Hopefully, constructive dialogue will lead to affirmative results.

25. In regard to New Zealand, the national government has positively indicated that it is reconsidering the opposing position of its predecessor and might endorse the UN Declaration. However, the government has recently suggested that the debate has shifted to what “exceptions” New Zealand would want. In particular, the government has indicated that it would endorse the Declaration “only if it does not trump New Zealand's constitutional framework and law”.

26. It is misleading to speak of the Declaration as “trumping” New Zealand law. The Declaration is not an absolute instrument that automatically trumps domestic law. In relation to Indigenous peoples, it elaborates a set of norms that should be effectively applied in all national, regional and international contexts.

27. Human rights are generally relative in nature so that the human rights of all are respected. The Declaration reflects and builds upon international human rights standards. It does not exist in a vacuum and allows for full consideration of relevant international and domestic law.


28. In interpreting human rights and related State obligations within a particular country, domestic courts may choose to consider declarations and other international instruments. Such dynamic interaction between domestic and international law is well-established and growing in different regions of the world.

29. The New Zealand government has suggested that the Declaration could be interpreted so that i) Māori would have to give full informed consent to laws being passed in Parliament – thus overriding New Zealand’s democratic institutions; and ii) Māori had the right to occupy all land they had before colonisation or receive full compensation for it.

30. Such absolute perspectives lack balance and accuracy. It is well-established that the principles of democracy, respect for human rights, and the rule of law are interrelated.

31. Such government claims rely on extreme interpretations of individual provisions in isolation from the necessary context of the Declaration as a whole and without regard for the body of international human rights law to which it belongs. In the close to two years since the adoption of the Declaration, none of the imagined negative consequences have materialized.

32. Like other human rights instruments of a similar nature, the Declaration can only complement, and not override, existing human rights protections. The necessity of a balanced interpretation and application of the Declaration is made explicit. Every provision must be “interpreted in accordance with the principles of justice, democracy, respect for human rights, equality, non-discrimination, good governance and good faith” (art. 46(3)). The rights of all interested parties must always be fully and fairly considered.

33. It has been suggested that the Treaty of Waitangi or related framework might somehow be jeopardized by the Declaration. As stated by New Zealand’s Justice Minister, “the important point is to make sure that the unique framework constitutionally put in place primarily by the Treaty of Waitangi is not disrupted by any affirmation of the declaration [by the NZ government]”. However, the Declaration explicitly affirms:

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. (article 37(1)).

34. In regard to Canada, it has continued its ideological opposition to the Declaration. The current minority government has ignored the April 2008 Motion adopted by the House of Commons in Canada’s Parliament – calling for the Parliament and government of Canada to “fully implement” the standards in the Declaration.

35. The House of Commons is the elected chamber of Canada's Parliament. In adopting this resolution on the Declaration, the House of Commons rejected positions on the Declaration expressed by the current minority government at home and abroad.

36. In relation to Indigenous peoples, Canada has repeatedly violated the rule of law both internationally and domestically. It has failed to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” and “cooperate with the Council”, as required of all Human Rights Council members. During its three-year term, Canada pursued the lowest standards of any Council member within the Western European group of States.

37. The Canadian government has opposed the Declaration in various international forums. It has encouraged other States to not support the Declaration. In taking its opposing positions, Canada has ignored its obligations under s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. It has failed to consult and accommodate Indigenous peoples and uphold the honour of the Crown.

The duty to consult arises when a Crown actor has knowledge, real or constructive, of the potential existence of Aboriginal rights or title and contemplates conduct that might adversely affect them. This in turn may lead to a duty to change government plans or policy to accommodate Aboriginal concerns. Responsiveness is a key requirement of both consultation and accommodation.

38. The Canadian government has encouraged States that are supportive of the Declaration to go on record stating concerns or conditions for its implementation. The government has then used these same statements as evidence of a lack of genuine support for the Declaration.

39. At the world climate talks in Poland in December 2008, Canada’s Environment Minister announced at a press conference that the UN Declaration “has nothing whatsoever to do with climate change.” Such statements unfairly politicize Indigenous peoples’ human rights and undermine global attempts to respond effectively to climate change.

40. This appears to be the first time that Canada has vigorously opposed a human rights instrument adopted by the General Assembly. The government erroneously claims that, in view of its opposing vote, the Declaration does not apply in Canada. In its December 2007 report, Amnesty International cautions that Canada’s position “attempts to set a very dangerous precedent for UN human rights protection”. The Report adds:

The proposition that governments can opt out … by simply voting against a Declaration, resolution or other similar document, even when an overwhelming majority of states have supported the new standards, dramatically undercuts the integrity of the international human rights system. … It is impossible to recall a similar example of Canada taking such a harmful position on the basic principles of global human rights protection.

41. Even as Canada opposes the Declaration, implementation is taking place domestically, with the leadership of Indigenous peoples and in partnership with civil society. The Declaration is becoming an integral part of human rights education and is used in presentations and materials shared across the country. Indigenous peoples are emphasizing the Declaration’s standards in their discourse with government and corporations. Academic institutions are including the Declaration in curricula, and trade unions are educating their members.

42. Within Canada, there are ongoing efforts from many sectors for the Canadian government to fully endorse and implement the Declaration. The opposition of the government was a central issue during Canada's Universal Periodic Review.

“Constitutional frameworks”, discrimination and universality

43. On 13 August 2007, an amendment was proposed unsuccessfully by New Zealand, Canada, Colombia and the Russian Federation in relation to article 46(3) of the Declaration that would require all provisions in this human rights instrument to be interpreted in accordance with “constitutional frameworks”.

44. The proposed amendment on “constitutional frameworks” was not disclosed to or discussed with Indigenous peoples prior to its submission to the President of the General Assembly. Nor was such an amendment ever tabled during the two decades of discussions in the UN Working Groups that drafted and considered the earlier texts of the Declaration.

45. During the standard-setting process, a version similar to article 46(3) of the Declaration was initially drafted and proposed by the former government of Canada in collaboration with Indigenous peoples. Canada actively encouraged other States to support this provision. Yet the current government of Canada continues to refuse to accept art. 46(3).

46. To require the provisions of the Declaration to be interpreted in accordance with the “constitutional frameworks” of each State could serve to legitimize any existing injustices and discrimination in national constitutions. Treaty monitoring bodies and special rapporteurs could be hampered from recommending amendments to constitutions, so as to recognize or safeguard the human rights of Indigenous peoples.

47. No such limitation or qualification is found in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights or the two international human rights Covenants. To impose such a requirement on the rights of Indigenous peoples would run counter to the principle of “equal rights and self-determination of peoples” in the Charter of the United Nations. It would also constitute a discriminatory double standard.

48. The interpretation of Indigenous peoples’ human rights in accordance with “constitutional frameworks” could severely undermine the principle of “universality”. Indigenous peoples in States with national constitutions that deny Indigenous rights could be denied rights that exist for Indigenous peoples in other countries.

All human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. The international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis. ... [I]t is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and freedoms.

49. Canada and New Zealand cannot be selective in what human rights they choose to respect and protect. The principles that govern the Agenda and Framework for the Programme of Work of the Human Rights Council include “universality”, “objectivity” and “non-selectivity”. Double standards or politicization should be carefully avoided.


50. Indigenous peoples’ human rights and related issues continue to be mainstreamed throughout the UN system. Implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must remain a central objective. It is welcomed that the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has added this crucial item to their agenda.

51. The process of implementing the Declaration is in its initial stages and there remain formidable challenges to overcome. In the different regions of the world, Indigenous peoples continue to suffer severe poverty, dispossession of lands and resources, marginalization, discrimination and other widespread and persistent human rights violations.

52. While significant progress is being achieved in some cases, in other situations there may be little or none. In many instances, regional or national human rights institutions may be sorely lacking. There may also be no well-established culture of respect for human rights.

53. In fully assessing implementation of the Declaration at regional and national levels, a comprehensive and systematic approach is strongly recommended. It would be highly useful for States and Indigenous peoples to report on implementation, and share best practices and concrete results.

54. In regard to New Zealand, United States and Canada – there is virtually no advantage to retaining regressive or prejudicial positions. The international reputation and credibility of opposing States will likely continue to suffer. Moreover, such actions are not consistent with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, run counter to the principles of international cooperation and solidarity, and serve to undermine the international system as a whole.

55. In regard to the United States, an additional compelling reason in favour of unequivocally endorsing the UN Declaration is that as a member of the Human Rights Council, the United States is required to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” and “cooperate with the Council”.

56. In order to play a leadership role internationally, the three opposing States should set positive examples. In particular, it is crucial and urgent to fully endorse the Declaration – the most universal comprehensive international human rights instrument relating to 370 million Indigenous people worldwide.

Full copy including footnotes available here: