Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Foiled again: Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Looking at the latest news we find ourselves confronted with the combined truth of rhetoric and propaganda. The United States is one of the biggest proponents of the rights of humans. Human Rights are part of the US national conversation. In fact certain human rights are so important in the US that they are mandated in the Bill of Rights, the first amendments to the US Constitution. The idea of human rights is not just considered domestically but US foreign policy is guided by the idea of people having inalienable rights. Yet we find that in a practical sense the US concern over human rights is not so important. We talk a good game about the abuses of China and yet we don’t have any problems trading with them. The concerns for the rights of women are important to the US as long as it doesn’t impinge on our access to oil and profits.

Don’t get me wrong the US is by far more benevolent toward the rights of people than many regimes around the world. But still, let’s not kid ourselves, just because you aren’t the biggest bully in the school doesn’t mean you’re not a bully. It just means there are those that are worse. That doesn’t excuse the minor bully’s behavior. From the US take over of Hawaii in 1896 through the military occupation of the Philippines (via Spanish-American War) to the diplomatic imperialism of the ‘Open Door Policy’ in China, the US has shown its nature. Let’s just say that in a game of RISK you wouldn’t trust the US player.

Human rights in the US are tricky to understand. Most of the treaties made with recognized nations of Native Americans have been abrogated in some way. In fact the US has gone so far as to try to disband and unrecognize tribes. Originally, Indians were placed on reservations to marginalize them and later this was combined with trying to assimilate their children to eradicate the culture altogether. Overall, little has changed. Certainly since the beginnings of Red Power and the American Indian Movement of the late 1960s Native Americans have regained some of what they have lost. However, we find many complaints about treatment by Native groups concerning interaction with the federal government and its subordinates. An example of this is a Mohawk powerboat that was run-down by the US Coast Guard and Border Patrol. The boat and its two male crew were traveling from one portion of the Akwesasne Reservation to another. The reservation is divided by the US and Canadian border, which is not recognized by the Indians. During the night a Mohawk boat, going between points on the reservation, was chased, first by the RCMP, and in the end rammed by a US Coast Guard ship. The ramming of the Mohawk boat injured its two passengers. One of the Mohawks is currently paralyzed. There was no contraband found or in fact alleged. This is a case where Native rights are being ignored by the US, a situation where laws and rules are imposed on a sovereign people with no regard to ancient and historic rights or land ownership.[1]

Just recently during another round of voting the United States refused to vote for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.[2] “On Sept. 13, 2007 the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to protect their lands and resources, and to maintain their unique cultures and traditions. About 370 million indigenous people live in the world.”[3] The US, Canada, and Australia have decided not to vote in favor of the UN rights declaration. New Zealand has recently changed its stance.

The perplexing thing here is that the US wants to come across as the human rights champion of the world and puts up a good front in doing it. Yet, here in the United States we find hundreds of thousands of Native peoples who are part of indigenous nations whose rights are ignored. Many have these rights guaranteed by treaties and in some cases law. “Hitler's concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history. He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and for the Indians in the wild-west; and often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America's extermination - by starvation and uneven combat - of the red savages who could not be tamed by captivity.”[4]

If the US signs the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples then major changes would have to occur in the treatment of indigenous people here in the US. Certainly if Canada and the US sign there would be a redistribution of federal lands and situations such as Akwesasne could no longer occur.

Just recently the US is considering reviewing its stance on this UN declaration. If signing means that human relationships will become better and people will be treated fairer, shouldn’t the US sign?

[1] Nesseth, David. Akwesasne Wants Independent Investigation of Boat Crash. Standard Freeholder, http://www.standard-freeholder.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2534875, April 15, 2010.

[2] Staff. US Says No to Indigenous Rights. Sunday. Press TV, http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=124290&sectionid=3510203, April 25, 2010.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Toland, John. Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976, 702.


  1. I think it's time to forget about nationalities and become one people of one united country! Otherwise we won't be so strong! With a dissertation write it won't be difficult to write more articles on this topic!

  2. To accept the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples would be to reveal the invalidity of the US colonial empire. That is why all 4 outposts of the British empire voted against it initially.

    In a 2006 joint press release, they revealed the reason why they were against the UN DRIP:

    I quote: "“Indigenous peoples” are not defined. This means separatist or minority groups with traditional connections to the territory where they live – across the globe - could exploit this declaration to claim the right to self-determination, including exclusive control of territorial resources."

    There it is. Concern over being denied access to plunder "territorial resources" belonging to others.

    How dare those heathen "minority groups with traditional connections to the territory where they live" dare assert any claim right to self-determination and to the "territorial resources" therein!.

    They must learn who the boss is.