US Apartheid of Indigenous People Detailed in UN Report

US Apartheid of Indigenous People Detailed in UN Report

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January 19, 2008

The International Indian Treaty Council will soon present the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination with a document that reveals America’s legacy of systemic racism, forced assimilation and apartheid of Indigenous Peoples.

The 87-page Consolidated Indigenous Shadow Report, which has been prepared with testimony from a number of individuals, covers issues such as: environmental racism, border injustices, the destruction of sacred places, violence against women, and most tellingly, the “overwhelming disparities in income, life expectancy, poverty and unemployment” in what can only be described as a system of Apartheid and forced assimilation “where Indigenous people are warehoused in poverty and neglect, their only option being to abandon their lands, families, languages and cultures to search for a better life.”

Among other matters, the report also examines the Plenary Powers Doctrine, the so-called ‘Trust’ Relationship, and the “current application of racist constitutional doctrine established by the United States Supreme Court” in the early 1800s.

As stated in the Conclusion,

The United States perpetuates a constitutional and legal system that legitimizes discriminatory practices towards Indigenous Peoples by failing to protect their rights to property, religious freedom and practice, despoiling spiritually significant areas, denying Indigenous Peoples’ control and management of resources and self-determination even on their own lands.

The federal government, acting through Congress and the executive, continues to take tribal lands and resources, in many cases without payment and without any legal remedy for the tribes. Congress frequently deals with Indian property and Indian claims by enacting legislation that would be forbidden by the Constitution if it affected anyone else’s property or claims. Because of the federal government’s essentially limitless power and constant intrusion under the plenary power doctrine, Indian governments cannot function properly to govern their lands or to carry out much-needed economic development. Constantly under threat of termination or worse, this denial of simple justice has long served to deprive Indigenous Nations of a fair opportunity to advance the interests of their communities [AND FULLFILL THEIR BASIC NEEDS]. No others in the country are in such an untenable and insecure position.

The report goes on to make a number of recommendations which can be found below.

Courtesy of Brenda Norrell, you can download the report in full: Consolidated Indigenous Shadow Report (pdf)

If you’re pressed for time, Brenda also put together a great overview of the report in her article, US Apartheid of Indigenous Peoples documented in UN report

In February, the Report will be presented to the UN Committee by “Alberto Saldamando, IITC board president, and board member Lenny Foster, Navajo, who reported on the freedom of religion for Indigenous prisoners in the US”, along with Western Shoshone and other organizations and Indigenous Nations.


1. Racist Constitutional Doctrines:

· Although there have been no dialogues or conversations with Indigenous Peoples with regard to the abolition of the racially discriminatory constitutional doctrines described in this Shadow report, including the so-called Trust Relationship, there is a well founded fear among many that simply abolishing the present relationship between recognized tribes and the United States would lead to individual States exerting jurisdiction over Indigenous Peoples, the loss of land and its collective nature, and many rights valued by recognized tribes as well as unrecognized Indigenous Peoples. Consultations should take place with Indigenous Peoples, including the right to free, prior and informed consent, with the view of abolishing these racist doctrines while protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples as reflected by international customary law and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

· That the United States recognize all Indigenous Peoples in the United States as Indigenous Peoples with Indigenous rights, consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and with international customary law, including terminated Tribes, unrecognized Tribes, Alaskan Natives, Native Hawai’ians and the Taino Peoples of Puerto Rico. It should also comply with its Charter responsibilities of ensuring the well being of the Native Peoples of Guam and Puerto Rico.

· The “Plenary Powers Doctrine” should be immediately abolished. Consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, General recommendation XXIII, and customary international law, Indigenous lands taken under this doctrine should be restored.

· The United States should begin a process of reinstating abrogated and unrecognized Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, with the view of respecting and adhering to their terms, and provide, with the free prior and informed consent of the Indigenous Peoples affected, restitution and where appropriate, compensation for damages as a result of their abrogation or failure of recognition.

2. Sacred Lands and Religious Freedom:

· Consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, General recommendation XXIII, and customary international law, Sacred Lands should be returned to Indigenous Peoples with particular attention paid to the Black Hills of South Dakota to the Lakota Nation.

· Indigenous Peoples should be allowed to practice their religion without the necessity of permits or the observation and encumbrances of tourists, bikers and rock climbers;

· Development that affects the Sanctity of Sacred Lands should immediately cease and should only be allowed with the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous Peoples affected; and,

· Prison Inmates, in both Federal and State prisons should immediately be allowed their religious practice as is allowed all other religions in United States prisons, including but not limited to, last rites for condemned Indigenous inmates.

3. Environmental Racism

· Development with potential harm to Indigenous Peoples’ rights, whether on recognized reservations or not, should not be done without their free, prior and informed consent. The United States should take immediate steps to remediate and compensate for the legacies of development harmful to Indigenous Peoples.

· The United States should be held accountable for its behavior and that of US trans-national corporations that violate the rights of Indigenous Peoples abroad. It should immediately cease these racist policies and practices and take appropriate legislative and administrative measures to prevent these adverse activities and to explore ways of holding transnational companies registered in the United States accountable. Particularly, the United States should:

— Outlaw the manufacture of banned pesticides for export.

— Stop the spraying of herbicides in Colombia and other countries

— Cease their economic and logistical support of paramilitary death squads under the guise of “economic development.”

4. US Apartheid and Coerced Assimilation

· The United States must cease its de facto system of apartheid on Indian Reservations as places to warehouse its Native American poor, leaving them only option for “an economic existence worthy of human dignity” the abandonment of community, language and culture.

· The United States must comply with its Treaty Obligations as well as customary international law, and provide the means by which Indian Reservations can develop and provide for future generations in keeping with their cultures and traditions.

· Congress should act to reauthorize and update the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to reflect both current needs of Indian health and the current health care systems enjoyed by most Americans. Equally importantly, it should receive the necessary funding to be effective.

· In order to better protect tribal female citizens from sexual violence, the United States should recognize full tribal criminal jurisdictional authority over all crimes occurring within Indian country. In addition, Congress should provide adequate funding to fully implement Title IX of the Violence against Women Act.

· The United States should afford Native Americans the full right to participate in government by addressing the rampant voting discrimination practices throughout the nation, and particularly in South Dakota.

5. Articles 6 and 7 of the CERD Convention

· The United States should provide just and adequate reparation and compensation for any damages suffered by indigenous victims of abuse by the United States under its historical practice of mandating that Native children attend federally sponsored boarding schools.

· The United States should promote the development of textbooks and the teaching of culturally appropriate and historically accurate curriculum for all school age children, particularly Native American children, of the dignity and worth of Indigenous Peoples and cultures, as well as their human rights.

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