By Vi Waln
MISSION, SD – James Anaya, an expert appointed by the United Nations, met with several tribal leaders and community members here last week. The visit to Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Indian Reservation was part of a fact gathering mission regarding the human rights of indigenous peoples in the United States. Special Rapporteur Anaya also held meetings in Washington, DC, Oregon, Oklahoma, Alaska, Arizona and Washington State.
The two-day session was moderated by Bill Means of the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC). The Special Rapporteur came to South Dakota “to discuss issues of human rights, human rights are something we are born with,” Means told the gathering.
Special Rapporteur Anaya referred to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the purpose of his work. “I am here to listen to people as a part of a report on the conditions of Indigenous people. I do not receive instructions; I am looking for the truth as you tell it to me.”
Speakers were limited to 10 minutes and were encouraged to summarize any written statements submitted to Special Rapporteur Anaya. There was no limit to the number of pages which could be submitted as written testimony. Several people who did not speak attended the session to submit their written testimony. A letter signed by Rosebud Sioux Tribal President Rodney Bordeaux, SGU President Lionel Bordeaux, Jess Taken Alive, Chief Leonard Crow Dog, Chief Oliver Red Cloud and Chief Keith Horse Looking was also submitted.
“We are subject to continual terror since the 1851 treaty,” stated Faith Spotted Eagle, an Ihanktonwan tribal member from the Yankton Sioux Reservation. “As recent as 2010, the United States (US) tried to violate our rights with an action to disestablish us [as a reservation] in the Supreme Court. Consultations are tainted and diluted.”
“The treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay is based on how American Indians were treated,” stated Oglala Lakota Russell Means. “The US secretly maintains they are in a state of war with us. We want them to recognize the 1851 and 1868 treaties as valid international documents. We are not confronting the US or trying to embarrass them, we just want our treaties recognized. The perpetual war they have against us is the same as Israeli treatment of Palestinians.”
“We were psychologically traumatized at boarding school, I cried for days after they cut my braids,” stated Cheyenne River elder Marcella Lebeau. “We worked four hours a day and went to school four hours a day. This got us a fourth grade education instead of an eighth grade education like we were supposed to get.”
“In 1924 my mother became a US citizen and got a force patent on her land so then she had to pay tax on the land,” Lebeau continued. “She lost her land because she was unemployed [and couldn’t pay the taxes]. The 1947 Pick-Sloan Act took our land along the Missouri River. They took our land and the landowners were never paid just compensation.”
“Treaties without an expiration date are to be in effect until everyone agrees that they are no longer in effect,” Charmaine White Face said. “We are totally surrounded and occupied by the United States of America. Full enforcement of the treaty of 1868 – this is the message we want you to give to the United Nations Council.”
“The US allowed and allows, supported and supports corporate encroachment onto our Homelands to get at the gold in our sacred Black Hills,” stated Debra White Plume. “There are uranium, oil, and gas corporations here now, and more want to come. We did not invite them. America welcomes Canadian-owned Cameco uranium corporation, TransCanada oil pipeline corporation, and PowerTech uranium corporation to come and obtain permits to mine uranium and slurry oil in our Territory against our wishes, this extraction and pipeline threatens our Ogallala Aquifer, which gives 2 million people drinking water and irrigates the world’s bread basket.”
“We have not given our free, prior and informed consent as required by the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, we know not everyone is satisfied with the Declaration, but it is a minimum standards document. Federal Indian policy lumps all Native Americans together and calls us American Indians,” she continued. “In 1890 a Gatlin gun was used to murder over 300 Lakota people 7 miles from where I live. Federal Indian policy is the new Gatlin gun.”
“We are being denied our collective rights to land,” Darlene Pipe Boy stated. “The Cobell case is a manipulation of poverty.”
There is also “white retaliation of Native educators,” said Dr. Edward Valandra. “The institutional processes [are used] to eliminate Native educators, we pursue these advanced degrees to be of service to our people. Still, Native professors in universities are the most persecuted. This is an example of structural violence.”
Lakota LaPlante-Ruvalcaba spoke of a grandchild who was removed from her home by the Department of Social Services. “South Dakota is the Mississippi of the North when it comes to the treatment of our people. Native children [removed from their homes] are losing touch with family and culture.”
Chief Oliver Red Cloud offered a statement in the Lakota language. His address was translated in part by Alex White Plume. “I do not raise my hand under the US Constitution, I am under natural law. The US has never honored their word; they are ruining our Earth to make money. The IRA governments are a failure. If you do not speak your language or know your culture it’s an impact of genocide.”
“Last month we had a roadblock, two overweight trucks came into our sovereign territory without permission,” stated Tom Poor Bear who is Vice-President of the Oglala Lakota Nation. “In a conference call with the Governor of South Dakota, I stated that we have laws against these overweight vehicles. Governor Daugaard said our tribal, traditions, treaties, laws and ordinances meant nothing to him.”
Dr. Denise Lajimodiere, Charon Asetoyer, Michelle Tyon, Manny Iron Hawk, Wayne Wasicun, Darrell Drapeau, Dr. John Hart, Keith Horse Looking, Lionel Bordeaux, Alyssa Macy, Oliver Semans, Mike Wiggins Jr., Roger Milk, Sheryl Lightfoot, Alex White Plume, Jess Taken Alive, Dave Archambault and Lisa Shaw also offered testimony on a variety of issues. Paula Antoine read a written statement submitted by Chief Arvol Looking Horse.
Professor Anaya stated he would prepare an “assessment of conditions and make recommendations for a report which will be made public, the report will be presented in September 2012 to the United Nations Council in Geneva, Switzerland.”
He was also honored with several gifts, such as a star quilt and a Pendleton blanket along with other tokens of appreciation. “I feel stronger; your testimony means much to me as I go forward. I see you have very strong warriors,” he said. “I will give voice to what I’ve been hearing.”
He was also made a relative to the Lakota people with a Hunka ceremony and a Lakota name bestowed by Chief Red Cloud. Wanbli Wawokiye Wica or Eagle Helper was chosen as his name because of his work in many different parts of the continent. Prayers were offered by Chief Leonard Crow Dog, Chief Keith Horse Looking, Marty Makes Room and Chaz Blue Thunder.
In a statement issued at the conclusion of his visit, Anaya said “I also heard many stories about the significance of places that are sacred to indigenous peoples, places like the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona and the Black Hills in South Dakota, which hold profound religious and cultural significance to tribes. During my visit, indigenous peoples reported to me that they have too little control over what happens in these places, and that activities carried out around them at times affront their values and beliefs.” www.unsr.jamesanaya.org
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted in 2007. The document outlines a framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, well-being, and rights of indigenous peoples around the world. The document was officially endorsed by the US in December 2010.