By International Indian Treaty Council
GENEVA – The International Indian Treaty Council, in coordination with the Western Shoshone Defense Project, submitted a Consolidated Indigenous Shadow Report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on January 6th, 2008. The UNCERD is the “Treaty Monitoring Body” for the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It monitors compliance of the coutries which have ratified the Convention with its provisions, including the United States.
Submissions from Indigenous Peoples, tribes, organizations and communities from around the country were included in the report. It highlights a range of human rights violations and examples of racial discrimination reported by Indigenous Peoples in the US. These include the destruction of sacred sites, threats to spiritual and cultural practices, environmental racism, violence against Indigenous women, Homeland Security-promoted border and immigration policies, Treaty rights violations, widespread discrimination in education, health and prisoners’ rights. Information was also included from Indigenous Peoples in countries outside the US who are affected by US policy.
The report will be considered in the upcoming examination of the US by the UNCERD in February in Geneva, Switzerland.
The UNCERD, during the review, will question US representatives on US compliance with the Convention based on the US official report to the Committee, called the Periodic Report. United Nations guidelines require that governments consult with Non-Governmental Organizations in their counties when they compile their Periodic Reports, but the US has generally ignored this guideline. The Consolidated Indigenous Report was submitted to ensure that the voices of Indigenous Peoples would be heard during this examination.
Alberto Saldamando, IITC General Counsel, who co-coordinated the development of the report stated, “In compiling this report to the UNCERD, it was clear that the institutionalization of racism and discrimination against Native Peoples is ingrained at every level of US society. The data and the many inputs we received from Tribes, Native Peoples and individuals vividly demonstrate that racial discrimination thrives in schools, universities, prisons and in the so-called administration of justice in the US, at every level of government and society at large.
"Even in textbooks, Indigenous Peoples in the US are reduced to caricatures with little humanity and even fewer rights, particularly those rights recognized by the recently adopted UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We hope that the government and people of the US are willing to correct the highly disproportionate impact of discrimination and poverty on Native Peoples in the US, in keeping with the UN Declaration. The international arena is one of the few spaces we have to denounce the racial discrimination directed against us. At some point it has to happen.”
Julie Fischer, Western Shoshone Defense Project and co-coordinator of report stated, “We are extremely pleased with the completion of the Indigenous Joint Shadow Report. As we continue to move forward in this long struggle, we are witnessing more and more native voices coming forth and standing to be counted. The Report reflects those voices and the commonality of the struggles of the indigenous peoples of this Turtle Island.
"The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has been a strong force in the struggle of the Western Shoshone and other indigenous people. With the information contained in this Report, it is our hope to equip the Committee with the information it needs to hold the United States and its multi national corporations accountable to the rights of the first peoples and respect for their traditional laws, lands and resources.”
In recent years the UNCERD has made very important decisions upholding Indigenous Peoples' Human Rights, in particular its General Recommendation XIII which affirms Indigenous Peoples’ Free Prior Informed Consent in matters affecting them, and calls upon States to uphold this right. The Western Shoshone Defense Project served as the co-coordinators with IITC for the development of this Report, and has successfully used the ICERD “Early Warning and Urgent Action procedures” to raise questions challenging the legitimacy of the Indian Land Claims Commission process and the purported “loss” of their ancestral lands in violation of the Treaty of Ruby Valley.
In 2006, the UNCERD issued a full Urgent Action decision stating in part that the “Committee has received credible information alleging that the Western Shoshone Indigenous Peoples are being denied their traditional rights to land, and that the measures taken and even accelerated lately by the State party in relation to the status, use and occupation of these lands may cumulatively lead to irreparable harm to these communities.”
Carrie Dann, Western Shoshone Nation elder and spokesperson, stated following the 2006 decision, “"We are very pleased with the UNCERD's decision against the United States. Hopefully, the United States will begin to address its poor history with the Indigenous Peoples and begin to act in a more honest and good faith manner. The struggle of the Western Shoshone Nation is the struggle of all Indigenous Peoples. It is not just about abuse of power and economics – it is about the stripping away of our spirit.
"The UNCERD decision confirms what the Western Shoshone and other Indigenous Peoples have been saying for a very long time - it is a first step that we can use in our ongoing work and in our corporate engagement and public education strategies. We also hope this decision and the Western Shoshone struggle can be used to encourage and strengthen other peoples' struggles to protect their spirituality, the lands, resources and their rights as Indigenous Peoples," Dann said.
The UNCERD has responded very positively to Indigenous Peoples’ recent submissions regarding New Zealand and Canada as well. Alberto Saldamando, IITC General Counsel, and IITC Board member Lenny Foster (Dineh Nation) will attend the UNCERD session in Geneva and present the Report. The Western Shoshone and representatives from other Tribal Nations and organizations are also planning to attend. Indigenous Peoples around the country are eagerly waiting for the UNCERD’s response to their submissions.
The UNCERD currently has one Indigenous expert member, Francisco Cali, Maya Kaqchikel from Guatemala, who was just re-elected to another 4-year term by the state (country) parties to the Convention at the UN General Assembly session on January 17th.
The “Consolidated Indigenous Shadow Report to the UNCERD on the United States” can be downloaded at http://www.treatycouncil.org/
Contact: Alberto Saldamando
IITC General Counsel
Tel: (415) 641-4482