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Treaties & New Agenda

Published: November 30, 2014, Author: Rÿser Rudolph C.

“Trail of Broken Treaties:” For Renewal of Contracts — Reconstruction of Indian Communities & Securing an Indian Future in America

 

Forty-two years ago October 31 the “Trail of Broken Treaties 20-Point Position Paper” was issued by the American Indian Movement (AIM) to the news media. When it was released it was considered to be “demands by militant Indians.”  Political leadership (American Indian and US officials) considered this manifesto to be threatening–somehow “unAmerican.” What seemed so threatening then fades to a mild and realistic statement calling for reform of US policy toward American Indians, Alaskan Natives andHawaiian Natives.

Indeed, in the forty-two years since the release of the “20 Points” major changes have come about not only in the United States/American relations, but at the international level in the United Nations and in many countries as a result of the “20 Points.”

The United States Congress enacted a law to create the American Indian Policy Review Commission with resulting new laws and agreements being enacted changing the relationship between the US and American Indians as well as Alaskan Natives and Hawaiian Natives.

The United Nations during those forty-two years has conducted a special Working Group on Indigenous Populations that conducted a special study of indigenous treaties and other special arrangements.  The UN General Assembly has adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and establish the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues resulting in a new international dialogue considering and promoting the substance of the “20 Points.”

The UN conducted the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and issued an Outcome Document describing in detail specific actions to be taken by States’ governments to implement provisions of the UN Declaration and echoing the “20 Points.”

The International Labor Organization enacted a new convention on the rights of indigenous peoples reflecting some of the “20 points.” New international laws containing provisions specifically concerning the rights of indigenous Peoples have been adopted by States’ governments.

Some States’ governments such as Sweden and Bolivia have taken a strong stand in support of indigenous peoples demonstrating the reach of the “20 points” and their influence on the rights of indigenous peoples world-wide.

Let me recall some of the details that those “20 Points” have influence resulting in significant changes in the United States and throughout the world. The “20 Points” also demonstrate the importance of indigenous peoples (organization leaders, indigenous government leaders, intellectuals, and activists) working consistently and persistently on a common agenda. Much of what has been achieved in 42 years has been due to this consistency and persistence among indigenous peoples at the ground, regional, state and international levels. I have been proud to have been an active participant at all of these levels.

Now, the first most deliberate response to the “20 Points” was by South Dakota Senator James Abourezk and Washington State’s Congressman Lloyd Meeds–both of whom were encouraged and prompted to sponsor legislation to establish a commission to review US policy toward Indians. They received strong encouragement from National Congress of American Indians President Mel Tonasket (Colville), Ernie Stevens (Oneida), Chuck Trimble (Lakota), Hank Adams (Assiniboine-Sioux), Sherwin Broadhead, Lucy Covington (Colville), and Helen Scheirbeck (Lumbee) among many.

The 6,333 words that make up “TRAIL OF BROKEN TREATIES”: FOR RENEWAL OF CONTRACTS-RECONSTRUCTION OF INDIAN COMMUNITIES & SECURING AN INDIAN FUTURE IN AMERICA! became the policy foundation in July 1973  for South Dakota Senator James Abourezk introducing in the Senate Joint Resolution 133 (and cosponsored by Michigan Philip Hart and Washington State Senator Henry M. Jackson) and Washington State Congressman Loyd Meeds introducing (with cosponsors Clausen of California, de Lugo of Vermont, Fraser of Minnesota, Jones of Oklahoma, Lujan of New Mexico and Regula of Ohio) Joint Resolution 1117 eventually adopted as Public Law 93-580 on January 2 1975. That law established a Joint Congressional Commission called the American Indian Policy Review Commission “to conduct a comprehensive review of the historical and legal developments underlying the Indians’ relationship with the Federal Government and to determine the nature and scope of necessary revisions in the formulation of policy and programs for the benefit of Indians.” The Commission issued 206 recommendations to the US Congress and to the Executive Branch of the United States on May 17, 1977.

What were the main topics of the American Indian Movement’s Twenty Points? I will list them here without their detail narratives:

  1. RESTORATION OF CONSTITUTIONAL TREATY-MAKING AUTHORITY
  2. ESTABLISHMENT OF TREATY COMMISSION TO MAKE NEW TREATIES
  3. AN ADDRESS TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE & JOINT SESSSIONS OF CONGRESS
  4. COMMISSION TO REVIEW TREATY COMMITMENTS & VIOLATIONS
  5. RESUBMISSION OF UNRATIFIED TREATIES TO THE SENATE
  6. ALL INDIANS TO BE GOVERNED BY TREATY RELATIONS
  7. MANDATORY RELIEF AGAINST TREATY RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
  8. JUDICIAL RECOGNITION OF INDIAN RIGHT TO INTERPRET TREATIES
  9. CREATION OF CONGRESSIONAL JOINT COMMITTEE ON RECONSTRUCTION OF INDIAN RELATIONS
  10. LAND REFORM AND RESTORATION OF A 110-MILLION ACRE NATIVE LAND BASE
  11. REVISION OF 25 U.S.C. 163; RESTORATION OF RIGHTS TERMINATED BY ENROLLMENT AND REVOCATION OF PROHIBITIONS AGAINST “DUAL BENEFITS”
  12. REPEAL OF STATE LAWS ENACTED UNDER PUBLIC LAW 280 (1953)
  13. RESUME FEDERAL PROTECTIVE JURISDICTION FOR OFFENSES AGAINST INDIANS
  14. ABOLITION OF THE BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS BY 1976
  15. CREATION OF AN “OFFICE OF FEDERAL INDIAN RELATIONS AND COMMUNITY RECONSTRUCTION
  16. PRIORITIES AND PURPOSE OF THE PROPOSED NEW OFFICE
  1. Remedy the breakdown in constitutional-prescribed relationships between the United States and Indian Nations and people and to alleviate the impact that the distortion of those relationships has rendered upon the lives of Indian people.
  2. The Proposed Office of Federal Indian Relations and Community Reconstruction should be authorized the greatest latitude to act and remove restrictions from the positive actions of Indian people.
  • INDIAN COMMERCE AND TAX IMMUNITIES
  • PROTECTION OF INDIANS’ RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND CULTURAL INTEGRITY
  • NATIONAL REFERENDUMS, LOCAL OPTIONS, AND FORMS OF INDIAN ORGANIZATION
  • HEALTH, HOUSING, EMPLOYMENT, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, AND EDUCATION

The American Indian Policy Review Commission took up virtually all of the 20 Points forming specific task forces to consider what had been the American Indian Movement’s detailed and specific manifesto. Thirteen specific task forces were established to delve deeply major topics: Treaty Relations, Tribal Government, Federal Administration, Education, Health, Economic Development, Non-Recognized Tribes,Urban (off Reservation Indians), Community Services, Trust Responsibility and a host of Special Problems. Ernie Stevens of the Oneida Nation was the Commission Director and Kirk Kickingbird of Kiowa Nation served as General Counsel. Five Indian leaders (John Borbridge, Tlingit-Haida; Louis Bruce, Mohawk-Sioux; Ada Deer, Menominee; Adolph Dial, Lumbee; and Jake Whitecrow, Quapaw-Senec-Cayuga) sat as full members of the Commission chaired by Senator Abourezk and vice chair Congressman Lloyd Meeds with four members of Congress.

I served the Commission as the Task Force Specialist directing the Federal Administration Task Force headed by Sam Deloria (Lakota), and members Ray Goetting (Cado), and Mel Tonasket (Colville). Seventeen other people served as Task Force Specialists on 12 other Tasks Forces. Thirty six tribal officials, tribal attorneys, subject specialists and community leaders served as Task Force Members. American Indians, Alaskan Natives, and Hawaiian Natives comprised perhaps 90 percent of the Commission. In the end it generated 206 recommendations many of which are US, state and tribal law today.

As the American Indian Policy Review Commission was carrying out its two-year mission, the United Nations was organizing to set up its Working Group on Indigenous Issues (1981-1994) (The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was later established) and then produced its Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) and the UN sponsored and conducted its High level Plenary Session called the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples was conducted in September 2014 releasing an Outcome Document that significantly pointed the direction toward implementing the Declaration.

I would say we have accomplished quite a bit in the last 42 years. Now it is time to prepare a new agenda that answers questions like:

How can those laws harmful to the cultural, economic and political development of indigenous peoples in states around the world be repealed or modified?

What is the political goal of indigenous nations seeking to exercise self-determination?

Do indigenous nations have a duty to implement in their own laws and among their own people state conventions like those concerning Decolonization, Genocide, Human Rights, War, Political Rights, Civil Rights, etc?

Will indigenous governments add to new international law by negotiating treaties among themselves and with states?

{NOTE: This essay was updated to correct missing words and one grammar problem.}

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