USA, Colonists Opposes UN Indigenous Rights

Krishna Lalbiharie umlalbi0 at SPAMcc.UManitoba.CA
Tue Aug 17 18:03:09 MDT 1999

Campaign for indigenous rightsruns into U.S. opposition

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - In 1985, leaders of more than 300
>million indigenous peoples in over 70 countries started campaigning for a
>UN declaration recognizing their right to self determination and land.
>>But indigenous leaders say their campaign has run into strong opposition
>on those two key demands from the United States, Canada, Australia and New
>>As representatives of native peoples from around the globe gathered Monday
>at the United Nations to mark the International Day of the World's
>Indigenous People, there was no celebration - just a sobering assessment of
>the struggles ahead.
>>"Indigenous people have been basically ignored in many cases, are some of
>the poorest of the poor, and are also some of the most excluded in the
>development process," said Alfredo Sfeir-Younis, the World Bank
>representative at the United Nations.
>>"They are facing serious discrimination in terms of human rights,
>property, and also culture and citizenship," he told a news conference.
>>Indigenous leaders have been campaigning for a UN Declaration on the
>Rights of Indigenous People to take the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human
>Rights a step further and affirm that indigenous peoples are equal in
>dignity and rights to all other peoples - but also have a right to be
>>A draft declaration, adopted in 1994 and currently being considered by a
>working group of the Geneva-based UN Commission on Human Rights, would
>protect religious practices and ceremonies of indigenous peoples, their
>languages and oral traditions.
>>It would also give indigenous peoples - including native Americans and
>Canadians, Australian Aborigines, New Zealand Maoris, and South American
>Quechua and Mapuche - the right to self-determination and the right to own,
>develop, control and use their traditional lands, waters and other
>>"This declaration is making very slow progress," said Bacre Waly Ndiaye,
>director of the New York office of the UN High Commissioner for Human
>>"For many governments, it's very important to allow prospecting for gold
>and for oil anywhere - and they're clashing with people for whom the land
>where they want to prospect is sacred," he said.
>>Tonya Gonnella Frichner, president of the American-Indian Law Alliance,
>said Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand fear that
>self-determination could lead to secession.
>>"That certainly is not what indigenous peoples are talking about," she
>said. "When you secede, you go somewhere, and this is our indigenous
>territory. Where are we going?"
>>Frichner, a member of the Onondaga Nation, said she and other Native
>Americans protested last week when U.S. representatives referred to Native
>American groups as "domestic dependent nations" at a working group meeting
>in Geneva on the declaration.
>>"We were not domestic dependent nations. You don't sign treaties with
>domestic dependent nations," she said. "You sign treaties with nations."
>>Despite objections from the four nations, indigenous leaders are hopeful
>that they will achieve their goal of getting the UN to adopt the
>declaration by the end of the International Decade of the World's
>Indigenous People in 2004.
>>While a declaration won't be legally binding, Frichner said, it will be an
>important guide to nations around the world on the rights of many of their
>forgotten peoples.
>>                                   © The Canadian Press, 1999

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