August 23, 2010

US praises itself on Native rights

US releases watered-down, generic report to UN on human rights

Native American testimony at 'Listening Conferences,' ignored in final report of US Periodic Review to UN

By Brenda Norrell
The United States has sent its report card for itself on human rights to the United Nations Human Rights Council. The US Periodic Review on Human Rights released today shows the Obama Administration giving itself a glossy, positive review on the issue of Native Americans and human rights.

However, it appears that no one was actually listening at the US State Department's Listening Conferences, held to gather testimony for the report from Native Americans.

The US report fails to describe the ongoing environmental genocide, where corporations in collusion with the US government target Indian country with power plants, coal mines, oil and gas wells and experimental technology.
Some of what the US report did say:

Report of the United States of America
Submitted to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights
In Conjunction with the Universal Periodic Review
39. In November of last year, President Obama hosted a historic summit with nearly 400 tribal leaders to develop a policy agenda for Native Americans where he emphasized his commitment to regular and meaningful consultation with tribal officials regarding federal policy decisions that have tribal implications. In March, the President signed into law important health provisions for American Indians and Alaska Natives. In addition, President Obama recognizes the importance of enhancing the role of tribes in Indian education and supports Native language immersion and Native language restoration programs.

40. Addressing crimes involving violence against women and children on tribal lands is a priority. After extensive consultations with tribal leaders, Attorney General Eric Holder announced significant reform to increase prosecution of crimes committed on tribal lands. He hired more Assistant U.S. Attorneys and more victim-witness specialists. He created a new position, the National Indian Country Training Coordinator, who will work with prosecutors and law enforcement officers in tribal communities. The Attorney General is establishing a Tribal Nations Leadership Council to provide ongoing advice on issues critical to tribal communities.

41. On July 29, 2010, President Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act, requiring the Justice Department to disclose data on cases in Indian Country that it declines to prosecute and granting tribes greater authority to prosecute and punish criminals. The Act also expands support for Bureau of Indian Affairs and Tribal officers. It includes new provisions to prevent counterfeiting of Indian-produced crafts and new guidelines and training for domestic violence and sex crimes, and it strengthens tribal courts and police departments and enhances programs to combat drug and alcohol abuse and help at-risk youth. These are significant measures that will empower tribal governments and make a difference in people's lives.
Nice, but that's only a fraction of the issues facing Indian country. Some of what the report didn't say, according to Norrell:There is no mention of the remains of radioactive spills, radioactive tailings and scattered bombs strewn across Indian country from the Navajo Nation to the Badlands on Lakotas' Pine Ridge.

The US report fails to address the widespread abuses by the US Border Patrol of Indigenous Peoples traveling in their own territories, or the violations of NAGPRA and other federal laws during construction of the US/Mexico border wall. This included Boeing digging up the ancestors of the O'odham.

There is no mention of the abuse of Haudenosaunee and others on the northern border by border agents. The US fails to describe the racial profiling that has become acceptable for police and border agents in the US.

The US does not address the violations of fishing and hunting rights of Native Americans in violations of Treaties.

The report fails to describe the targeting of American Indians by police during traffic stops, the longer prison sentences issued by courts for American Indians or the ongoing hate crimes in Indian country bordertowns. It fails to reveal the extent of the denial of rights for American Indian religious freedom in US prisons.
Russell Means chimed in with his opinion of the so-called listening sessions:

Statement by Russell Means, Republic of Lakotah
on the Occasion of the United States State Department “Listening Session” in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 16 March 2010
Once again, the occupation government of the United States of America has trotted out its dogs and ponies to provide a smokescreen and diversion from its continuing crimes against the indigenous peoples and nations of the Western Hemisphere. The reason for today’s media spectacle is supposedly for the US State Department to “listen” to input from indigenous peoples and nations for inclusion in the U.S.’s report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, universal periodic review process.

As we can see, many indigenous people have been duped to participate, yet again, in a lying and duplicitous process of the United States. The United States has absolutely no interest or intention of admitting to the world its human rights record that is neither justifiable nor defensible. In particular, the record of the United States with regard to historical, and ongoing, violations of over 370 treaties that were negotiated and signed with indigenous nations must be, but will not be, addressed by the United States. Instead, as is its ongoing practice, the United States will use this session, and the one tomorrow on the territory of the Diné (Navajo) Nation, as its justification that indigenous peoples were “consulted,” and “listened to,” while the U.S. simultaneously lies to the world about its disgraceful human rights record.
Comment:  I don't know if I'd agree with some of the inflammatory language above. But the basic point is a good one. Any US report about Native rights should talk about the treaty violations up front.

In other words, an analysis of the US government's troubled trust relationship with America's Indian nations should be the subject of Chapter 1. Talk about what Obama recognizes, emphasizes, or supports should be in Chapter 5 or 10--i.e., in the back of the report. Tough talk about actual problems should come first and pie-in-the sky hopes should come last.

For more on the subject, see Obama Refuses to Use G-Word, Where Are Obama's Cabinet Reports?, and Obama's Invisible Apology.


Stop America said...

Well said by Russell Means. This is like hanging a man and then patting yourself on the back for not spitting on him at his last breath.

Inflammatory words are the most resistance and conflict the US government has ever had to deal with from Indian country Rob, but blatant acts of violence and legislation to diminish human rights was approved during the former president Bush's tenure on all Americans and Obama is just paying hop scotch as another talking headpiece replacing him and turning his head and mind to a continued forced intrusion on Native rights.

I believe violence is the only language Americans and the US government do understand. It worked for Bin Laden. And he is still alive with a bulk of America's money in his pocket!

Meanwhile, Indians are taxed for cigarettes as Bloomberg encourages violence no different than Limbaugh or Glenn Beck does.

Bush and Obama do not bring Americans together, Bin Laden and Al Quaeda can do that for this country!

So Sad!

Anonymous said...

When I read that title, the first thing I did was LAUGH! gag me already...


Rob said...

A mild critique of the State Department's report to the United Nations Human Rights Council:

State Department’s human rights report falls short

As a measure of the nation’s success in protecting freedom of expression and religion, the report points to a recent Texas court case in which a Native student’s right to wear his hair in a braid was upheld.

But nowhere does it mention the protection of sacred sites, an issue of concern voiced by almost all the tribal leaders, organizations and individuals who participated in the State Department’s “listening sessions,” Carmen said.

“The fact is indigenous peoples don’t have freedom of religion--a right guaranteed by the Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples--because our religion is tied to these sacred places that were given to us to bury our ancestors and practice our religion. The U.S. has not done much to protect them. Given the choice of protecting sacred places and a coal mine, they go for the coal mine every time.

“We want our religion to be respected on the same basis as other people’s religions in the U.S.”