I am today attending the 9th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the UN Headquarters in New York City. It appears this session promises to have some important influences on the directions of states’ government policies.
When the UN General Assembly considered the final draft of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in September 2007, four states (US, New Zealand, Canada and Australia) rejected while 11 abstained and 144 agreed. Since that decision nearly three years ago Australia and New Zealand have announced a reversal of their vote and stand now in favor. Canada is slightly equivocating, but inching toward approval. Only the United States is “studying” how it might respond to the trend of reversals.
On the first day of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on the 19th of April, New Zealand announced its reversal. The United States representative Ambassador Rice indicated that the United States is “pleased to announce that the United States has decided to review our
The central question for the United States is and has been “land rights” verse “territorial rights” and the exercise of self-determination. While the US has given lip service to these concepts as relates to American Indians, Alaskan Natives and Hawaiian Natives its actual position has been that all this land must be under US control. The problem is that most of the land and its status is really up in the air since the US has not actually made treaties or agreements to secure the land. In Nevada, for example, that whole state and part of California and Idaho are actually Shoshone territory since the Treaty of Ruby valley never conferred ownership through transfer from the Shoshone to the United States.
Whether the US agrees to the Declaration or not, it is a defacto statement of international policy. Indigeous peoples and states’ governments are free to development implementation laws and actions as they wish.
The US and Canada had better get on board….the ship has already left the dock.
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