A Report to the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Professor James Anaya
May 1, 2012
Welcome, Professor Anaya, to the last Territory of the Oceti Sakowin, the Great Sioux Nation. Thank you for accepting our invitation to visit our Territory.
My Tituwan name is Zumila Wobaga and my American name is Charmaine White Face. I am the Spokesperson for the Sioux Nation Treaty Council which was established in 1894 by He Dog, a Headman.
This report is a Summary of three issues: the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the extractive industries in our Territory, and a recommendation for the only solution. Hard copies of the detailed information, the background for this Summary, are being given to you. These are: An Analysis of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, The CERD Report which was given to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2007, and a letter that was sent to the Advisory Committee to the UN Human Rights Council dated July 11, 2011.
1. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is NOT the one that was approved by the Indigenous Peoples. Rather, it is the Declaration that was compiled by the Chairperson of the Working Group on the Draft Declaration and addresses the needs of individual human rights, but not the rights of nations. Our report, ‘An Analysis of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ gives a first-hand account of the history and the debates prior to the adoption of this current Declaration, and also what this will do the Great Sioux Nation.
Furthermore, as the implementation of the Declaration is to be handled domestically, it changes nothing for Native Americans. As the delegates from the United States would say during the debates on the Declaration, “We already give Self Determination to “our Native Americans” through the Tribal governments.” Not only are our individual human rights violated by the United States in education, justice, and health to name a few, but our rights as a nation are totally ignored. The tribal governments created by the American system are based on a European concept and are not our traditional form of government.
2. Extractive Industries
It was an extractive industry, gold mining in the sacred Black Hills, that caused the United States to go against their own Constitution when President Ulysses S. Grant secretly ordered his soldiers to allow gold miners into our Treaty Territory in the sacred Black Hills and violate the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty. The subsequent destruction of our way of life quickly followed as the buffalo were exterminated.
Today, the extractive industry is still doing the same thing, only this time the danger and genocide is to all the people of the Great Sioux Nation. There are more than 3,000 abandoned open-pit uranium mines in our Treaty Territory, and more than 10,000 uranium exploratory wells that are NOT marked, filled, or capped, some large enough for a man to fall through. Of course, the federal and state governments are aware of this as they are the ones that give the permits for these operations. New mines and new exploratory wells are currently being built.
There are also many operations of strip mining in our Territory of coal that is naturally laced with uranium. Other current mining operations besides for uranium, coal, and gold include feldspar, dolomite and limestone. These operations also disturb the naturally occurring uranium and its 13 decay products which are 85% more radioactive than the uranium itself. Our water, both on the surface and in the ground, the air, the land and the vegetation have been continually contaminated for the past 40 years with radioactive pollution. Uranium can be found in the Missouri River at the southern border of South Dakota. This is not even mentioning the cyanide and arsenic that is also used or is naturally occurring.
Currently, the Indigenous people of the Northern Great Plains have the highest rates of cancer in the country according to the Indian Health Service. Yet, the amount spent on health care for Indigenous people in our Territory is less than what is available for prisoners in federal and state prisons. The Indian Health Service will only provide care if it is for life or limb. A cancer that is slow growing, such as thyroid cancer, will not be treated. More detailed information is available in “The CERD Report” and more reports can be requested.
3. Recommendation for the Only Solution
For tens of thousands of years, our nation lived in this Territory and originally in a much larger territory. The naturally occurring uranium was here. Our individual human rights were protected. We never had cancer. Our nation knew how to live in this Region without destroying anything. In order to protect our nation, our ancestors drafted treaties with the United States.
Professor Miguel Alfonso Martinez, an Indigenous Expert, law professor, and former Chairperson of the UN Advisory Committee to the Human Rights Council, in his report, “Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Study on treaties, agreements, and other constructive arrangements between States and indigenous populations” stated:
“Paragraph 265. In the case of indigenous peoples who concluded treaties or other legal instruments with the European settlers and/or their continuators in the colonization process, the Special Rapporteur has not found any sound legal argument to sustain the argument that they have lost their international juridical status as nations/peoples…
“Paragraph 271. The Special Rapporteur is of the opinion that those instruments indeed maintain their original status and continue fully in effect, and consequently are sources of rights and obligations for all the original parties to them (or their successors), who shall implement their provisions in good faith.
“Paragraph 272. The legal reasoning supporting the above conclusion is very simple and the Special Rapporteur is not breaking any new ground in this respect. Treaties without an expiration date are to be considered as continuing in effect until all the parties to them decide to terminate them, unless otherwise established in the text of the instrument itself, or unless they are duly declared to be null and void….
“Paragraph 279.…the unilateral termination of a treaty or of any other international legally binding instrument, or the non-fulfilment of the obligations contained in its provisions, has been and continues to be unacceptable behaviour according to both the Law of Nations and more modern international law. The same can be said with respect to the breaching of treaty provisions. All these actions determine the international responsibility of the State involved….”
Our last treaty with the United States, the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, has a specific provision for how it can be changed. That has never happened. Instead, the United Stated unilaterally violated not only their own Constitution but also the Fort Laramie Treaty when they allowed settlers into our Territory. All the problems we face today are the consequence of that violation.
In April, 2009, the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 was upheld in an American federal court in Florida. This is evidence that even an American federal judge admits that the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 is still legal and viable. However, an American federal judge is unable to make the United States uphold their end of the bargain, as this is an International Treaty.
We have been participating at the United Nations since 1984 in order to have our last Treaty upheld and enforced. We are totally surrounded and occupied by the United States of America. We need the help of the rest of the family of nations so we can be the nation the Creator made us to be. We only want our freedom and independence as a nation.
The only solution to this devastating situation is the full enforcement of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868.
This is the message we ask you to give in your report to the United Nations Human Rights Council.