Listening Conferences for UN Report: No one was listening to Native Americans

By Brenda Norrell

Updated Aug. 24, 2010

It appears no one was listening at the US State Department’s Listening Conferences this year, when Native Americans offered testimony on human rights for a report to the United Nations.

The US Periodic Review on Human Rights released Monday, Aug. 23, shows the Obama Administration giving itself a glossy, positive review on the issue of Native Americans and human rights to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

However, the release of the final document proves Russell Means was accurate when he described the Listening Conferences as a “Smokescreen.”

“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,” Means said in March.

The US report to the UN fails to describe the ongoing environmental genocide, where corporations in collusion with the US government target Indian country with power plants, coal mines and oil and gas wells.

The United States does not address the uranium mining that now threatens water supplies of Navajos or Lakotas, nor of the proposed Desert Rock power plant that threatens the health of Navajos. There is no mention of the so-called Navajo Hopi land dispute that resulted in the relocation of 14,000 Navajos on Black Mesa. It was manufactured by attorneys, Congressmen and Peabody Coal to make way for Peabody Coal mining. The report does does not mention the Forgotten Navajos of the Bennett Freeze zone, where development was frozen by federal legislation.

The US report does not address the poisoned groundwater of the Tohono O'odham from mining, nor the conditions on South Dakota Indian lands. It does not address the violations of the rights of the Western Shoshone as gold mining targets sacred Mount Tenabo. There is no mention of how the use of recycled sewage water on sacred San Francisco Peaks will affect American Indian Nations.

There is no mention of the radioactive spills and radioactive tailings strewn across the Navajo Nation or the live Cold War bombs in the Badlands on Pine Ridge, S.D. There is no mention of the genocide of uranium mining, leaving behind a legacy of cancer and death, in Acoma and Laguna Pueblos. There was no mention of testimony to protect Zuni Pueblo sacred places.

The US Periodic Review 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 physical 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. There is no mention of the destruction of ceremonial items by border agents.

The US does not address the violations of fishing and hunting rights of Native Americans in violations of Treaties. There is no mention of the loss of water rights.

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. The US fails to admit to the denials of American Indian religious freedom in US prisons.

While giving a sweeping rosy report of the United States in regards to Native Americans and human rights, the US says it is considering passage of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The US fails to point out that it is trailing all the other countries in the world in adoption of the Declaration.

The US is currently attempting a flim-flam approach to the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. But Indigenous Peoples say that US laws of "Discovery" and "Conquest" can not supersede the UN Declaration.

Tonya Gonellaa Frichner, Onondaga, said the US House of Representatives submitted Resolution 1551.1H to Congress and referred it to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on July 22. Frichner is the North American Regional Representative to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. ...

"The resolution expresses the sense of Congress that the United States should 'promote respect for and full implementation of the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples consistent with US law,'" she said.

"As positive as this wording of the resolution may seem, the phrase 'consistent with US law' is highly problematic because US law with regard to American Indian nations and peoples is premised on unacceptable doctrines such as 'discovery,' 'conquest,' and 'plenary power,' and on a presumption of United States supremacy over Indigenous peoples.

"The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is an international human rights instrument that recognizes the individual, collective, and group rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the right of self-determination, and the right of Indigenous Peoples to give or withhold their free, prior, and informed consent when it comes to the exploitation of their Indigenous lands, territories, and resources.

"It is incumbent upon the United States government to fully endorse and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in a manner consistent with international standards of human rights, and in keeping with the recognition of the individual, group, and collective rights of Indigenous Peoples," she said.

 Meanwhile, in the Periodic Review to the UN, while applauding freedom of expression in America, the US fails to point out that spying on private citizens is nearing the Cold War spying level. There is no mention of ongoing US war crimes.

The ACLU, in its response to the US Periodic Report, stressed the US abuse of the rights of prisoners and migrants.

Although Window Rock, Ariz., on the Navajo Nation was one site of the testimony at the Listening Conferences, there are no specifics of Navajo testimony in the final report.

Although written testimony was presented on behalf of Leonard Peltier, there is no mention of Peltier in the final report.

Means said, in his statement in March, “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.”

The ACLU listed the shortcomings of the report and made recommendations today, stressing the United States abuse of the rights of prisoners and migrants:

http://www.aclu.org/files/assets/upr_submission_20100419.pdf

View the US Periodic Review to the UN Human Rights Council:

http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/146379.pdf

What the US State Department doesn't want you to hear: Leonard Peltier

http://censored-news.blogspot.com/2010/08/what-us-state-department-doesnt-want.html

Violations of Native American Religious Freedom in US Prisons: What the State Dept. doesn't want you to know:

http://censored-news.blogspot.com/2010/08/violations-of-native-religious-freedom.html

About Brenda Norrell

Brenda Norrell has been a news reporter in Indian country for 34 years. She is publisher of Censored News, focusing on Indigenous Peoples, human rights and the US border. Censored News was created after Norrell was censored, then terminated, by Indian Country Today after serving as a longtime staff reporter. Now censored by the mainstream media, she previously was a staff reporter at numerous American Indian newspapers and a stringer for AP, USA Today and others. She lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, and then traveled with the Zapatistas. She covered the climate summits in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and Cancun, Mexico, in 2010.

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About Brenda Norrell

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Biography

Brenda Norrell has been a news reporter in Indian country for 34 years. She is publisher of Censored News, focusing on Indigenous Peoples, human rights and the US border. Censored News was created after Norrell was censored, then terminated, by Indian Country Today after serving as a longtime staff reporter. Now censored by the mainstream media, she previously was a staff reporter at numerous American Indian newspapers and a stringer for AP, USA Today and others. She lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, and then traveled with the Zapatistas. She covered the climate summits in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and Cancun, Mexico, in 2010.