May 04, 2012

UN official recommends land restoration

UN fact finder on indigenous rights to recommend land restoration for some Native AmericansA United Nations fact finder surveying the lives of Native Americans and Alaska Natives said Friday he’ll recommend in an upcoming report that some of the tribes’ lands be restored, including the Black Hills of South Dakota.

James Anaya, a U.N. special rapporteur, has been meeting with tribal leaders, the administration and Senate members over 12 days to assess U.S. implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He plans several suggestions in his report, which he said he likely will deliver to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council in September.

Anaya said land restoration would help bring about reconciliation. He named the Black Hills as an example. He said restoring to indigenous people what they have a legitimate claim to can be done in a way that is not divisive “so that the Black Hills, for example, isn’t just a reminder of the subordination and domination of indigenous peoples in that country.”

The Black Hills, home to Mount Rushmore, are public land but are considered sacred by the Sioux tribes. The Sioux have refused to accept money awarded in a 1980 U.S. Supreme Court decision and have sought return of the land. The Black Hills and other lands were set aside for the Sioux in an 1868 treaty. But Congress passed a law in 1877 taking the land.
UN expert urges US to take more robust measures to tackle indigenous issuesMr. Anaya drew special attention to the need for measures of reconciliation to overcome “the legacies of a history of oppression” in the country, according to a news release issued by the UN human rights office.

“In all my consultations with indigenous peoples in the places I visited it was impressed upon me that the sense of loss, alienation and indignity is pervasive throughout Indian country,” he said.

“I heard almost universal calls from indigenous nations and tribes across the country that the Government respect tribal sovereignty, that indigenous peoples’ ability to control their own affairs be strengthened, and that the many existing barriers to the effective exercise of self-determination be removed,” Mr. Anaya added.

During his 12-day visit, Mr. Anaya met with indigenous peoples in the capital, Washington D.C., as well as in the states of Arizona, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, South Dakota and Oklahoma, in addition to government officials.

He said that during his mission he learned that many tribes across the country already have capable institutions of self-governance and tribal courts in place, as well as self-administered social and economic development programmes that have had significant successes and which also help to promote and consolidate indigenous cultures and values.

The expert noted that he had collected enough information to assess how the standards of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples are reflected in US law, policy and programmes at both the state and federal levels, and to identify needed reforms.
No more Mt. Rushmore?

As you may recall, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples generated some conservative scaremongering last year:

Colbert satirizes UN declaration scare
Countdown covers UN declaration scare
Liberals mock UN declaration scare
Obama's UN "coup" is "chilling"

Needless to say, no land giveaways happened in the last year. But Anaya's report may lead to more conservative scaremongering. Here's the first hint of that:

Mt. Rushmore Site Should Be Returned To Indigenous Native American Tribes, U.N. Official SaysSouth Dakota's Black Hills, home to the granite faces carved into Mt. Rushmore, should be restored as Native American tribal lands, a United Nations official recently said.

James Anaya, a U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, completed a fact-finding mission on Friday that included meetings with a number of Native American tribal leaders as well as White House officials. His investigation led him to suggest that the United States take additional steps to repair the nation's legacy of oppression against Native Americans. He'll officially propose the plan in an upcoming report.
Oh, no! It's just as conservatives feared when the US "supported" UNDRIP! Obama's gonna give the country back to the Indians!

Actually, it's unlikely any US president will give back the Black Hills. Conservatives would see it as admitting America's guilt and caving in to a "special interest" group, so it's politically untenable.

If a Black Hills measure somehow got passed without a political firestorm, it probably would carve out an exception for Mt. Rushmore. So an article talking about giving back Mt. Rushmore, complete with photos, is a implicit scare tactic.

Even if the US gave back Mt. what? It would become a tribally-run national park with no significant differences. The average visitor probably wouldn't notice the change in administration.

The real issue would be giving back the portion of the Black Hills with natural resources to exploit. You can bet the mining and ranching interests would oppose that with angry protests, if not guns and bombs. That's why a give-back probably won't happen.

For more on the UN declaration, see UN Declaration's First Anniversary and Red Corn Testifies at Senate Hearing.

Below:  Special Rapporteur James Anaya. (UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré)

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