human rights

Science Seminar: Implementing the CARE Principles in Open Data Repositories

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Science Seminar: Implementing the CARE Principles in Open Data Repositories

The people and purpose-oriented CARE Principles (Collective Benefit, Authority to Control, Responsibility, and Ethics) reflect the crucial role of data in advancing innovation, governance, and self-determination among Indigenous Peoples. The CARE Principles complement and extend the more data-centric approach of the FAIR Principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable). This webinar is on the CARE Principles and how Indigenous governance and stewardship are recognized by the NSF's NEON Science in their collection of samples on Indigenous lands, air, water, and non-human relations.

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Stephanie Russo Carroll and Global Indigenous Data Alliance. "Science Seminar: Implementing the CARE Principles in Open Data Repositories". Feb. 14, 2023. Video. NEON Science. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVJNd_jzQzg. Accessed Feb 26, 2023.

Transcripts for all videos are available by request. Please email us: nni@arizona.edu.

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Science Seminar: Implementing the CARE Principles in Open Data Repositories

AIS event: An Afternoon with Joanne Shenandoah and Doug George-Kanentiio

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University of Arizona
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On April 12, 2021, the Department of American Indian Studies and Graduate Interdisciplinary Program presented "An Afternoon with Joanne Shenandoah & Doug George-Kanentiio."

Doug George-Kanentiio (Awkesasne Mohawk) is a Native author, intellectual and journalist. His presentation was on “Raised Fists - Indigenous, Latino, and Black Rights Movements.” Joanne Shenandoah (Oneida) is a GRAMMY and NAMMY award-winning performer. Her presentation was about “Lifegivers, Women's Rights Under Natural Law.”

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The Department of American Indian Studies and Graduate Interdisciplinary Program. "An Afternoon with Joanne Shenandoah & Doug George-Kanentiio." University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. Wednesday, April 12, 2021 

Transcript available upon request. Please email: nni@email.arizona.edu

Walter Echo-Hawk: In the Light of Justice: The Rise of Human Rights in Native America & the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

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Indigenous Peoples' Law and Policy Program
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Walter Echo-Hawk, legendary civil rights attorney, discusses his latest book In the Light of Justice: The Rise of Human Rights in Native America & the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, stressing the need for Native nations and peoples to band together to mount a campaign to compel the United States to fully embrace and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Native Nations
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Echo-Hawk, Walter. "In the Light of Justice: The Rise of Human Rights in Native America & the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples." Indigenous Peoples' Law & Policy Program, James E. Rogers College of Law, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. November 20, 2013. Presentation.

James Anaya:

“The Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program is pleased to host a range of thought-provoking speakers in multiple settings over the course of each academic year as part of our multi-faceted program of learning and outreach. This evening we are especially privileged to have with us one of the truly groundbreaking advocates and thinkers of recent decades on issues concerning Native Americans in the United States and abroad, Mr. Walter Echo-Hawk.

A citizen of the Pawnee Nation, Walter Echo-Hawk is a distinguished lawyer who for years was one of the leading attorneys of the Native American Rights Fund, a former justice of the Supreme Court of the Pawnee Nation and now the Chief Justice of the Kickapoo Supreme Court, an author with numerous influential books and articles, and an activist whose energies extend to innovative initiatives to support Native American arts and culture. His vast legal experience includes precedent-setting cases involving Native American religious freedom, prisoner rights, water rights, and rights of reburial and repatriation. His work litigating and lobbying on Native American rights goes back to 1973 and much of that work occurred during pivotal years when America witnessed the rise of modern Indian nations. As American Indian tribes reclaimed their land, sovereignty and pride in an historic stride toward freedom and justice, Walter Echo-Hawk worked at the epicenter of a great social movement alongside tribal leaders on many issues, visiting Indian tribes in their Indigenous habitats throughout North America. He was instrumental in the passage of numerous important laws like the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act amendments in 1994.

As a scholar and author, Walter Echo Hawk’s numerous published works include his acclaimed book In the Courts of the Conquerors: The 10 Worst Indian Law Cases Ever Decided. This is an outstanding and insightful critique of the evolution of federal Indian law doctrine and its social implications. This evening we’re privileged to hear Walter talk about his most recent book In the Light of Justice: The Rise of Human Rights in Native America & the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In this book, Walter explains how the harm historically inflicted on the Indigenous peoples in the United States still commands attention because of the ongoing affects of the past on conditions today. He helps us understand why justice requires confronting the combined injustices of the past and present and he points us to tools for achieving reconciliation between the majority and Indigenous peoples focusing on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the United Nations as such a tool.

This UN declaration is an expression of standards grounded in fundamental human rights and a global consensus among governments and Indigenous peoples worldwide. It was adopted in the year 2007 by the UN general assembly with the affirmative votes of an overwhelming majority of UN member states, [and] expressions of celebration by Indigenous peoples from around the world who had been long advocating for the declaration. At the urging of Indigenous leaders from throughout the country, President Barack Obama announced the United States’ support for the Declaration on December 16, 2010, reversing the United State’s earlier position and he did so before a gathering at the White House of leaders of Indigenous nations and tribes. In his wonderful new book, Walter Echo Hawk shows us the seeds of change in the Declaration. “With the Declaration,’ he tells us, ‘we are in a rare moment of potential transformation, of a tectonic shift toward a new era of human relations that extends the promise of justice beyond the boundaries set by the past. It is a move farther along the path of greatness for which America yearns.’ This book inspires and moves us to seize that moment. Please welcome, please join me in welcoming Walter Echo-Hawk.”

[applause]

Walter Echo-Hawk:

“Well, thank you so much Professor Anaya for that very kind and generous introduction. I have admired Professor Anaya for many, many years. We first met in the mid 1970s when Jim was the General Counsel to the National Indian Youth Council [NIYC] and I was on their board of directors, and at that time he was deeply involved in civil rights litigation on behalf of NIYC and international litigation and international tribunals as well way back in the early 1980s. I’ve admired your work and your groundbreaking career for many, many years in the field of international human rights law and I think that your work has really opened new vistas for our Native people here at home and I’m very, I think, indebted to you also for writing the foreword to my new book In the Light of Justice and I’m grateful for that. It just put a lot of pressure on me to do my best because I have respected your work so much over the years.

I want to thank Professor Tatum, Melissa Tatum, the Director of the Indian [Peoples] Law [and Policy] Program here, Professor Mary Guss also as well for your kindness in showing me around town, making my presence possible here this evening. And lastly, I thank each and every one of you for coming tonight to be with me here. It’s certainly my great honor and privilege to be here at the Law School. This ranking law school is well known throughout Indian Country and among my colleagues in the practice of federal Indian law as being an important center for Indian law and policy. Some of the very brilliant scholarship that has emanated here from the Law School with folks like Professor Anaya and the other faculty, all-star faculty that is assembled here at the Law School including Professor Williams, Rob Williams, have truly opened some major vistas for Indian tribes and my colleagues throughout the nation. So I’m very glad to be here, very honored to be at this center of knowledge here. I feel like I’m very at the fount of knowledge if not very close to it.

And so I’m very honored to give a presentation this evening about my book In the Light of Justice, and this book is about a brand new legal framework for defining Native American rights here in the United States. The book does basically three things. First, it examines the landmark UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that Professor Anaya mentioned. This is a landmark international human rights instrument that creates a very comprehensive stand-alone legal framework for defining the rights of Native Americans as well as Indigenous peoples worldwide. As Jim mentioned, this UN declaration was approved in the year 2007 by the General Assembly. It was endorsed by the United States government in the year 2010 so it’s technically a part of U.S. Indian policy and today 150 nations around the world have also endorsed this UN Declaration, making it the new order of the day it seems to me. Secondly, this book goes on then to compare our existing law and social policy with regard to Native Americans to these UN standards, these minimum human rights standards that is established by the Declaration to see how well our domestic law stacks up against these human rights standards. And then thirdly, the book urges our nation to undertake a social and legal movement to implement these UN standards into our law and social policy.

What I’d like to do tonight is to basically cover three areas with you this evening. First, I’d like to talk about why I felt compelled to write this book. Secondly, I want to describe briefly this declaration and this new human rights framework for defining Native American rights. And then thirdly, I want to discuss some of the findings that I made in my comparative legal analysis and some of my conclusions that I drew in this legal analysis of the declaration and especially to talk about the need for implementing these standards in our own nation here in the United States, including some of the implementation challenges that our generation or this generation will face in implementing these UN standards into our law and social policy. But before I begin, I need to add a caveat here and that is that I am not and don’t hold myself out to be an international law expert. I haven’t gone to the UN, I haven’t gone to Geneva, I did not participate in the making of this declaration and the book simply examines this declaration and its implications purely from the standpoint of a domestic practitioner of federal Indian law to look at the possibilities of this in terms of strengthening our existing law and policy. So with that, I think after I hope we’ll have time for some questions and answers and then we’ll be able to sign a few books afterwards and I think this’ll be a rare opportunity especially if James joins me in signing some books. So you’ll have the signature of both of the authors of this book. So it should be a collector’s edition for you book collectors out there.

But at the outset, I’d like to just begin with the premise of this book and that is this -- that I believe that this is a historic time for federal Indian law and policy and of course we know that federal Indian law is our current legal framework here in the United States for defining Native American rights and we know through our experience in the modern era of federal Indian law that federal Indian law basically has two sides to it. On the one hand, it has some very strong protective features that are protective of Native American rights that arise from the doctrine of inherent tribal sovereignty and the related protectorate principles that was articulated in Worcester v. Georgia, and within that protective side of federal Indian law in the last two generations our Indian nations have made great nation-building advances in this tribal sovereignty movement and we can look around the country and see the fruits of that effort all around us, and it’s been described by Charles Wilkinson as giving rise to our modern Indian nations rivaling the great American social movements, the environmental movement, the women’s movement, the civil rights movement in American history. But on the other side of the coin, federal Indian law also has a dark side to it as well with some very clear anti-Indigenous functions that are seen in a whole host of nefarious legal doctrines that were implanted in the body of federal Indian law by the Supreme Court many decades ago, in numerous unjust legal fictions and a significant body of the jurisprudence of racism as defined by Webster’s dictionary book can be found in some of these Supreme Court decisions that are still the law of the land today. So this dark side to federal Indian law holds us back as Native people, it makes us vulnerable and it also keeps us poor. And so we have these two sides of our existing legal framework.

But today as I mentioned is a historic time because we can now clearly see two legal frameworks for defining Native American rights. Our old legal framework of federal Indian law and then out on the horizon we can see this brand-new human rights framework out on the horizon and it reminds me of an old Pawnee song about a spotted horse that we see way far away and it’s coming our way and it makes us feel good because we know it’s bringing good things for us and that’s how this declaration is. And so we can clearly see these two frameworks now and we stand at a crossroads today between these two legal frameworks here in the United States and I think that the challenge of our generation of legal practitioners and tribal leaders and Native American peoples is to basically work to save the very best from our old framework, our most protective features and to merge that with this new human rights framework to create a stronger body of law that is more just and to make it a seamless…to merge the two frameworks into a strengthened and more just legal framework for the 21st century in a post-colonial world.

So I want to turn to my first task tonight and that is: why did I write this book? I was motivated by three reasons, the first being the need to strengthen federal Indian law. As I’ve alluded to earlier, although we’ve made great strides under our existing legal framework, I feel like we have stalled out in recent years because there’s been a gradual weakening of federal Indian law since 1985 with the U.S. Supreme Court trend towards trimming back hard-won Native American rights beginning with the [William] Rehnquist Court in 1985. Court observers tell us that Indian nations have lost over 80 percent of their cases into the present day, in some terms losing 88 percent of our cases, and that frightening statistic means that prison inmates fare better before the high court than our Indian nations. That’s caused some of our leading legal scholars to ask, ‘Is federal Indian law dead?’ And then we have this dark side to our body of law that I mentioned earlier and that compounds this problem it seems to me. Scholars have thoroughly studied this dark side to federal Indian law. They’ve identified these factors there that make our rights vulnerable today. These nefarious legal doctrines have been traced to their origins in medieval Europe. These internal tensions that are found in our body of law between self-determining peoples that have [an] inherent right of tribal sovereignty on the one hand being hostage to these doctrines of unfettered colonialism, conquest and colonialism. You can’t have these two conditions, they’re mutually incompatible so we have these inherent tensions that struggle…are pitted against one another in our body of law. And so that’s not questioned today in the year 2013 in any serious way, but we’ve lived with this body of law since 1970 at the inception of the modern era of federal Indian law. Our litigators basically took this legal framework as we found it. We didn’t create federal Indian law, we simply took this legal framework as we found it and tried to make the best of it. We tried to coax the courts into applying the most protective features of this legal framework and then simply living with this dark side. But it seems to me that now in recent years we have stalled out. I think we’ve faltered in recent years. I think Indian Country is huddled against an assault by the Supreme Court for its further weakening our legal rights and we’ve stalled out it seems to me at the very doorstep of true self-determination as that principle is broadly defined in modern international rights law and it may be that our Indian tribes have come as far as we can go under this existing regime and to go any further we’re going to have to reform that legal framework. I think there’s an axiom here and that is that a race of people can only advance so far under an unjust legal regime and that there’ll come a time where they have to turn on that legal regime and challenge it to go any further in their aspirations. And I think we may have rode our pony as far as we can and to go further we’re going to have to focus for the very first time on challenging some of the dark side of federal Indian law and strengthening our legal framework. So these problems in the law have troubled me as a lifelong practitioner of federal Indian law and I felt that federal Indian law today is in deep trouble. It needs a lifeline and perhaps this UN Declaration is that lifeline. So I felt it well worth my while to examine this new legal framework.

The second reason that motivated me to write this book was if you look around Indian Country today and in our tribal communities, we will see numerous, hard-to-solve social ills that stalk our tribal communities today. Despite our best efforts to redress these social ills, we see these shocking socioeconomic gaps between Native Americans and our non-Indian neighbors with the lowest life expectancy in the nation, the highest rate of poverty, poorest housing, serious shocking gaps in the medical treatment, mental healthcare, highest rate of violence in the nation, highest suicide rates, unemployment. These ills have lingered for so long in our tribal communities that they’re seen as normal and they threaten to become permanent. How do we account for these shocking inequities? Social science researchers tell us that these are unhealed wounds inherited from our…as historical trauma from [the] legacy of conquest; dispossession, subjugation, marginalization created these open wounds and they haven’t healed yet in the year 2013, despite our best efforts. These are the end products of our current legal regime, our existing law and policy, and I believe that this declaration is specifically designed to redress this inherit…the inherited effects of colonialism through a human rights framework. It’s a prescription for the social ills, and so I therefore thought it was worth my time to examine that framework in this book.

The third reason that I wrote this book is that the UN approval of this declaration in the year 2007, which was done in a landslide crowning victory for over 20 years in the United Nations of work by Indigenous pioneers who accessed the international realm for the very first time in a couple hundred years. This landmark achievement was basically unheralded. It caught the United States by surprise; it caught Indian Country by surprise. I feel like it caught our tribal leaders and our tribal attorneys [who] were unfamiliar with it. We hadn’t read it. It caught us with our chaps down, so to speak. And so since that time, and especially since the year 2010, Indian Country has just begun to read this document for the very first time and our tribal attorneys to read it and educate ourselves. It’s been the subject of a Senate oversight hearing. It’s been the subject of conferences at the federal bar, at NCAI [National Congress of American Indians], at tribal leaders' forums and law school conferences. And as we study this document I felt that it would be helpful to provide some baseline information about this declaration to help our self-education process on this new human rights framework, to look at some of the implications, to provide some baseline information about it, some reconnaissance-level legal analysis and that’s what this book attempts to do, to assist Indian Country and our nation in looking at this new legal framework for defining the rights of our people.

Let me turn now to: what is this UN framework? And let me just ask you, if you’ve read this raise your hand. If you’ve read this declaration, raise your hand. By golly, I’m glad James has read it. That’s a pretty nice substantial fraction. But many places where I ask that question, very few hands will go up.

So I just want to make about seven fundamental points about this new human rights framework. The first, the point is that it…in 46 articles, it lays out the minimum standards, minimum human rights standards for the…protecting the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples worldwide -- that includes Native Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians. As Professor Anaya mentioned, it was approved by the UN in 2007, it was formally endorsed by the United States in 2010, 150 nations around the world as well.

Secondly, this document contains the authentic aspirations of Indigenous peoples in large measure because they wrote it and they negotiated it through the UN human rights framework. And if you read it as a practitioner of federal Indian law, you’ll see that all of the issues that our clients are concerned about and that we’ve litigated on and towards are contained in this document.

Thirdly, these standards as I mentioned earlier are comprehensive in nature. They address the full range of our Native American issues and aspirations. Our property rights, political rights, civil rights, economic rights, social rights, cultural rights, religious rights, environmental rights; it’s all there in this framework. And the interesting thing about it is the rights that are described in here are described as inherent, inherent human rights and I think that that’s very significant because an inherent human right means that the UN didn’t give these rights to Native people. These are rights that we already have.

So these are inherent human rights that nobody gave to Indigenous peoples, but rather they arise from our Indigenous histories, our Indigenous institutions, but were beyond reach by Native people in their domestic legal forums. What the United Nations did here was basically look to the larger body of modern international human rights law and simply pulled the norms and the human rights treaty provisions, pulled it out of this larger body and put them into this declaration and it’s showing the 150 nations of the world how to interpret this larger body of human rights law in the unique context of Indigenous peoples so that Indigenous peoples have the same human rights that the rest of humanity already enjoys. Further, these rights that are described in here, it is said that they’re supposed to be interpreted according to notions of justice, equality, good faith, democracy, a very just foundation for these inherent human rights, more just foundation than that found in the dark side of federal Indian law. Moreover, related to that, these rights are not considered to be new rights or special rights, but simply as I mentioned earlier just simply rights that are drawn from the existing body of international human rights law.

Next I’d like to talk about some of my major finding about these rights that I… conclusions that I drew in this book. Firstly, that these UN human rights standards are largely compatible with our U.S. law and policy in its finest hour. And at its very best and in its finest hour ,our federal Indian law in the 10 best cases ever decided about Indians show a fundamental compatibility with many of these standards. And those standards, if they were to become part of our body of law would simply make the very best in our legal culture more reliable and more dependable, but at the same time I also found, secondly, that many areas in our existing law and policy simply fail to pass muster under these standards, they don’t comply with these standards. And the book goes on to lay out these many, many areas that we need…where we need to uplift our existing law and policy so that they conform or are compatible with these minimum human rights standards.

The sixth point I wanted to make about this framework is that the Declaration is not a self-implementing instrument. It’s not legally binding law that federal courts must enforce, but rather the Declaration asks the United States to implement these standards in partnership with Native people, that the United States and all these other 150 nations are supposed to work with Native people to implement these standards, to provide technical assistance, to provide funding, to go forward in a nation-building kind of an effort to implement these standards. And so I think that that is a call to action to Indian Country to sit down with the government and see how we should go about implementing these standards in partnership.

I’d like to begin winding this lecture down here by looking at the need for these standards in our own country here. I think that the threshold question for all Americans of good will, including our tribal leaders and our tribal attorneys, is why do we need these standards in our own country? Aren’t we the leading democracy? Are you saying that we have injustice in our midst? Many Americans of goodwill will admit that yes, our nation was birthed on the human rights principle and we’ve got a very proud heritage of human rights that have always animated our nation from the very inception down to the present day. We’ve gone to war to protect human rights, to punish those who violate human rights, and it may be true that we haven’t always lived up to these core American human right values throughout our history in terms of our treatment of Native people here in the U.S., but are we responsible for healing a painful past when we didn’t personally have any hand in these appalling miscarriages of justice? It’s unfair to come to me when I had no part in that and ask me to heal the past. Others will ask, honestly ask, ‘Is an international law ineffective and unenforceable?’ That’s a myth that I once believed in as a dyed-in-the-wool practitioner of federal Indian law. Besides, many people just don’t like the UN. We don’t want to be bossed around by the UN or international law. Other Americans of good faith, goodwill, will say, ‘Why can’t we just rely on our existing law and policy to address these problems? After all, we have the Bill of Rights. Why not just apply the Bill of Rights and treat everybody alike and nothing more? We’ve got a comprehensive body of federal Indian law already. Why not just rely on it to fix these problems?’ And as advocates we must be able to answer each of these questions in a very persuasive way at the outset, otherwise we should fold up our tents and go home. So this book tries to answer those questions about the need for these standards in our nation. It explores answers. It looks at…it basically sees four reasons regarding the need for these standards: legal reasons, political reasons, social reasons and environmental reasons. And I hope that after you review these reasons in the book that you’ll agree with me that we do have compelling reasons and a compelling need to implement these standards here in the United States.

The first reason being a legal reason. As I mentioned earlier, to strengthen our body of federal Indian law, to reform that dark side of federal Indian law and root out the law of colonialism, the doctrines of conquest, doctrines of racism, all of these dark sides of our existing framework that have anti-Indigenous functions, to resolve our internal tensions and we have to remember that as I mentioned earlier or maybe it was later today that right now in our existing legal framework if you read our Supreme Court decisions in our foundational cases you will see that when it comes to defining Native American rights that the Supreme Court expressly eschews looking at ‘abstract principles of justice’ or ‘questions of morality’ when defining Native American rights. So this has produced an amoral body of law that is bereft of the human rights principle and I think that that has led to an amazing prevalence of unjust cases in federal Indian law. And so there is a need to reform federal Indian law to try to inject this human rights principle. I know as a litigator whenever you’re able to inject human rights into your issue, your position is immediately strengthened, and we found that when we were making the NAGPRA [Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act] statute that we were stymied in our negotiations, stalled out because of self-interest between the scientists, museums and the tribal communities until we agreed to follow the human rights principle and that kind of cracked the case and led to the passage of NAGPRA. And you can imagine if your client’s right to self-determination was considered an inherent human right, your client’s right to culture, your client’s right to accountable public media and so on and so forth, rights to protect Indigenous habitat were deemed to be inherent human rights, that’s going to put you in a much stronger legal position. So we have a legal reason here.

Secondly, we have social reasons, that is this inherited legacy of conquest that I talked about earlier, and the need to finally try to solve these hard-to-solve social ills. These are root problems that we’ve inherited in our tribal communities, cry out for healing in a national program of reconciliation and I think that this declaration is the antidote for those social ills and will enable our nation to solve them at long last and then move forward.

Thirdly, we have these political reasons to implement this declaration. Our nation has long been plagued with the Indian question or the Indian problem, ever since the United States first embarked on colonizing Indian lands and peoples. The political question has always been, ‘What do we do with the Indians once we’ve colonized everything? What do we do with them?’ And this has long perplexed our nation and historically…well, it’s a universal problem that all settler states with a history of colonialism have had to confront. How do we bring the Native people into the body politic? What’s the best approach for doing that on a political basis? And we’ve tried many approaches here in the United States. We’ve tried this Worcester framework of inherent tribal sovereignty for domestic dependent nations operating under the protection of the United States. We’ve tried Indian removal, to remove the tribes from our body politic. We’ve tried to exterminate Indians at the zenith of the Indian wars. We’ve zigzagged back to guardianship and Christianization methods to bring Native people into the body politic. We’ve tried self-government under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. We’ve swung back from there to termination to make our Indians disappear and then in 1970 swung back to Indian self-determination. So we’ve had these zigzagging policy shifts in U.S. history trying to figure out the best way to bring Native people into the body politic. The problem is that the normal mode for assimilating immigrants into our free and democratic society simply doesn’t work for Native people because we already inhabit the nation and we want to retain our Indigenous rights. Well, this declaration shows us how to do that. It tells us that we want to bring Native people into the body politic using the self-determination principle with our Indigenous rights intact, basically saying that we got it right with our Indian Self-Determination policy of 1970, that we should stay the course and do whatever we need to do to bring Native America into the body politic with all of their Indigenous human rights intact.

Fourth reason that is discussed in this book is environmental reasons. I think that there’s a healthy byproduct in recognizing and protecting Indigenous rights and that healthy byproduct has to do with this environmental crisis that our nation is confronted with. We have a growing environmental problem and a crisis that is a worldwide environmental problem that threatens human security. We see it in the mass extinction of animals and plants, the pollution of Father Sky, Mother Earth, our waters, our oceans. We see it in this climate change. We now live in a warming world thanks to the industrialized nations emitting these gases into the atmosphere. And this has caused…this crisis has caused scientists to fear a catastrophic collapse of some of our important global life systems. And so the scientists are sounding the alarm, but no one is listening. This crisis continues to get worse and not better. We can’t solve it without first getting a land ethic and [an] ocean ethic that can guide us, a moral compass to show humans and our modern society how we should comport ourselves to the natural world. And as far back as 1948, Aldo Leopold urged America, ‘Get a land ethic.’ But it’s never taken root in our nation yet. Why? We don’t have any clear guidance from our Western traditions, the Western religions, science or technology. They don’t tell us how humans should comport to the natural world. We have to look to Indigenous peoples for that, into their value system, our primal tribal religions, our hunting, fishing and gathering cosmologies and those value systems, which were the first world views of the human race that were wired into our biology as humans spread across the planet, and in that set of Indigenous value systems I think our nation will find the ingredients for an American land ethic. Without that ethic, we’re not going to be able to solve this environmental crisis and we’ve placed ourselves on the path of failed civilizations. We can’t solve it, the problem, without an ethic to guide us. It’s just simply too expensive. The problem is too severe. It costs too much money and we lack the political will to address and solve this problem. So we sorely need a land ethic and I think that there is a congruency between protecting Indigenous habitat and Indigenous land uses of Indigenous land, Indigenous cultures, empowering the Native people to protect their ways of life so that they can come to the seat at the table and maybe share some of their traditional knowledge and their value system and help us forge a land ethic. If you look at the Amazon forest, the remnants of that forest exist because of the Indigenous peoples that reside in these habitats that have been empowered to continue to live there and to defend those areas. Were it not for them, that forest would probably have long been gone. So there is that relationship between protecting and empowering Indigenous peoples and their environmental rights and addressing this environmental crisis.

So I’ve spoken too long and I want to just simply close with some quick concluding observations about the challenges in implementing this declaration and I think that I would direct your attention to James Anaya’s report that he submitted to the United States in his capacity as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In the year 2012, he conducted an official mission to the United States to consult with the United States government, to consult with tribal leaders to identify the human rights situation of Native Americans and barriers to implementing all of these human rights standards and he compiled this report in August of 2012. It’s entitled The Situation of Indigenous Peoples in the United States of America. And I would urge you to go to your computer and download it, and in fact I think we may have copies here this evening alongside my book tonight, our book I should say, in which Professor Anaya gives recommendations to the United States for steps that our nation must take to implement these standards. He concludes that we have a significant challenge in doing that, in rectifying and addressing our legacy of conquest here in the United States and it calls for changes, fundamental changes in all three branches of the federal government -- Congress, the President and the Executive Branch and our courts -- and these are fundamental changes that he is recommending that our nation take. And so it lays out a big task it seems to me for our generation and the next to implement these challenges to…I think this report is one of those rare policy analyses that come across from time to time, once in a great while, that can become a catalyst for change and so this report is a good starting place to download it and read it and I think you’ll agree that it does lay out a big task for our generation. And there’s a role for our law schools, our law professors, our law students, Native people, Americans of goodwill to come forward, our tribal leaders to come forward, to reach out for these human rights standards and work to implement them.

And I think the first step here is a…there’s a need for a focused national dialogue on the nature and content of human rights for Native Americans. And our nation has never had such a national dialogue of that nature in the same way that we looked at…our nation looked at Black America and the need for equality under the law for Black America. That was serious national conversation, but we’ve never had one when it comes to talking about human rights for Native America and our legal framework has no human rights judicial discourse in it at all and so we need to have a national discourse to understand the need for these standards in our country, to debunk the reasons not to act and I think that that’s a first step.

Secondly, I think we have to build a national campaign to implement these standards, to coax the government into developing a national plan of action through a national program of reconciliation to implement these standards in partnership with Native America. To do that…unless we do that, nothing’s going to happen and these human rights standards will remain beyond reach. So we need the internal machinery to set that in place for a campaign complete with guiding legal principles to develop this seamless new framework, employing some of our finest legal minds in our ranking law schools to help us do that, strategies and a focused public relations and public education campaign to educate the public about this, very similar to the campaign that Black America engaged in for 58 years to overturn Plessy v. Ferguson in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education. There’s lessons to be learned there in that campaign. There’s lessons to be learned from our tribal sovereignty movement that could be helpful in guiding a campaign to implement these standards in the 21st century.

And so with that brings me to my final point that this campaign has to also develop some philosophical foundation, some philosophical principles to motivate social action, social justice action and to guide our campaign into the light of justice. I don’t think we have to look far for that philosophical foundation for this campaign. We only have to look as far as to our wisdom traditions of the human race, remembering that from day one of the history of the human race has been one of atrocity, acts of genocide, warfare, catastrophes brought about by man’s inhumanity to man in the whole course of human history and along the way our ancestors developed some wisdom traditions that come to us from the world’s religions that teach us and tell us how to heal historical injuries, injuries of the kind that we have perpetrated on other people. These wisdom traditions work as sure as the rain must fall and they tell us it’s just five steps, it’s not rocket science. The first step being an injury has taken place and here we’re talking about this legacy of conquest that is still seen and felt today.

The second step is whatever tradition you come from your finest and highest teachings tell you that when you’ve injured somebody you must go to that person and apologize, prostrate yourself and ask for forgiveness. It’s a very hard step to do because we often demonize the people that we have harmed, wished them ill and it’s inconceivable, unthinkable to then go to them on bended knee and ask them to forgive us. It’s a hard thing to do, but our wisdom traditions teach us that we have to do that to relieve our guilt, to relieve their shame, to begin clearing the air for a healing process.

And that brings us to our third step in this healing process and that is to accept the apology and forgive; also very hard to do. I think one of the indicia of a traumatized community is simply they’re unable to forgive those who have trespassed against them. It’s hard to do, but it’s important that we forgive. Only the strong can forgive. It’s probably our highest, strongest human spiritual power that we have to forgive and all of our traditions teach us that we must forgive.

That third step then leads us to the…once peace is made it leads us to the fourth step in this process, acts of atonement. The burden shifts back to the perpetrator’s community to perform acts of atonement, to make amends, to wipe the slate clean as best as humans can do. We know we can’t turn back the hands of time, but we can do everything within our power as humans to make things right and I think these acts of atonement and this process are laid out in that declaration. It shows us what we must do here.

Once that step has gone through, it brings us to the last step and that is healing and reconciliation and at that point we’ve done everything that humans can do to heal, taken that high road to heal a historical injury in our midst regardless of the cause and from there we sit at the center of human compassion and we can honestly say at that point that I am you and you are me and we are one. We’ve been reunited and we can go on from there. And so I think that these wisdom traditions work in even the most heinous situations and I think we only need to look that far as a philosophical foundation for a campaign to guide us to that promised land so that we might all stand in the light of justice.”

[applause]

James Anaya:

“Walt has agreed to take a few questions. You have about five, maybe 10 minutes.”

Walter Echo-Hawk:

“Okay. I was hoping to filibuster so that we wouldn’t have to do any questions, but as long as they’re easy ones but please…yeah, five minutes, questions and then we have some books compliments of the campus bookstore. Anyone? Sir.”

Audience member:

“I think it was wonderful to hear you. And you have talked about how the United Nations Declaration can help the United States of America and do you have anything in the United Nations Declaration, which could be taken from the United States? I mean is there some teachings of United States Native culture, which is endorsed by the United Nations Declaration?”

Walter Echo-Hawk:

“Well, I feel that it’s very important for the United States to take a leadership role in implementing these standards in its own backyard. As President [Dwight] Eisenhower said, ‘Whatever America wants in the rest of the world first has to take place in our own backyard,’ and we hold ourselves out to the world as a human rights champion. We’re always running to the UN to have humanitarian intervention, to get support of the UN, and so I think that we don’t want to be the last nation on earth to implement these standards. We want to be among the first and the rest of the world is already embarking upon implementing these standards and that train is leaving the station and we need to be in there because I think that we are a very strong world power, we have influence around the world and if we’re able to successfully implement these human rights standards here in our own land, in one of the hard-core settler states or settler nations, then that would provide, I would hope, precedent for other nations to do the same thing around the world. It’s getting to be a smaller globe and we need to look across our boundaries to other lands. Certainly that’s what happened in the making of this declaration when Indigenous peoples came together and went to the UN. But I think it’s important for America not to be the last country on the planet to fully implement each and every one of these standards, that we should be among the first to try to take a leadership role to redeem our place as a champion of human rights worldwide because we use this as a tool in our foreign policy. Human rights is an important tool in our foreign policy and so we need to get matters fixed in our own backyards before we can do that in a legitimate way. Ma’am?”

Audience member:

“What suggestions could you give us in regards to getting such a national campaign you’re calling for moving, to find who needs to listen, who can move things and basically who can do what? Do you have any suggestions of how to achieve this, how to support and contribute?”

Walter Echo-Hawk:

“I think that…well, I have a couple, two chapters in the book that’s devoted to that, chapters nine and 10, so you’ll have to read it. You have to buy the book and read it. I think we have to mount a social movement, maybe a mother of all campaigns. To do that we have to internally put in place the machinery to do that, we have to go to our tribal leaders, ask them to get out of the casinos for a little bit, uplift their vision to see this new framework. We need a cadre I think of tribal leaders that can lead us into the light of justice. We need to staff them with some of our best attorneys that we have that are versed in human rights law and we need to have a lot of ingredients internally to vet some of these remedies that we’re talking about. We want to be sure we’re not going to make bad law or we’re not going to weaken our rights as Native Americans that we already have, rather we want to be sure that we strengthen them. Then we have to develop a strategic law development strategy and guided by astute political strategists with a…armed also with a very vigorous public education campaign. So I’m talking about the entire race of people and all of our assets and I think that we’re in a much better place to do that, Native America, in the year 2013. We’ve come a long way. We’ve got the experience, the capability and the resources to do that. Our survival, cultural survival depends on it. And you can look back to when the national…the NAACP was founded in 1910 and they were trying to overturn Plessy v. Ferguson and they had enormous hurdles in front of them at that time and yet it took them 58 years, but they did it. And I think we’re more poised now, Indian Country, to do that, but it’s going to be…take a lot of work. I think our young attorneys have to talk…learn the parlance of human rights, international human rights because we are now in a brand-new era of federal Indian law, a human rights era. And when President Obama endorsed this declaration, it ushered in a brand new era for federal Indian law and I think that the task for this next generation is to implement that declaration. Just like back in 1970, our goal at that time was to implement the Indian self-determination policy and it took a couple generations to basically do that in full measure. As I say, I think we’ve made big advances, we’ve come as far as we can though and now we’re in this human rights era of federal Indian law and policy and I think it’s incumbent upon you younger people, it’s easier for me to say, to take that up and carry it forward. Sir?”

Audience member:

“I was wondering, you mentioned some domestic examples like NAACP sort of leading the way for Black America. You also mentioned we should be sort of the leader as the United States in implementing human rights. Are there any…the declaration granted in 2007, are there any countries that sort of set a good precedent for us to follow?”

Walter Echo-Hawk:

“Yeah, I think…was it Bolivia or which country…? It just simply passed a statute incorporating the whole declaration in one fell swoop, but I think Jim may have a better idea on that. But there’s other countries. I think each country is unique. They have their own Indigenous issues, they have their own legal cultures that they’re looking at and I think we can look around the world and benefit from the experience in other countries in implementing it and the book kind of does that in a few limited examples. But I don’t know if you have anything to offer, Jim, from your perspective? Sir, in the back.”

Audience member:

“In your perspective, what is self-determination? Is there a timeframe of that since 1970 to now or further?”

Walter Echo-Hawk:

“Well, I think that in the United States we reached our low point in 1950. In the ‘50s it was the termination era. It was a low point in Native life in our country it seems to me. The policy was termination, to make Indian tribes disappear as quickly as possible. And our activists and tribal leaders in the 1950s and in the 1960s worked as best they could to resist immediate and wholesale termination by the federal government. And their work…in the ‘60s, Vine Deloria was the Executive Director of NCAI and Clyde Warrior was the President of the National Indian Youth Council. They were articulating, especially Vine was articulating this self-determination principle to set our Indian tribes on a different path to the promised land in the civil rights movement, which was implementing Brown v. Board of Education. He articulated the self-determination policy to -- ultimately, that was approved in 1970 by President Nixon in a historic message to Congress -- and that Indian self-determination policy broke from termination and forced assimilation to transfer power back to the tribes as much as possible. And so from that point, from 1970 to the current date, I think that’s been at the center of our tribal sovereignty movement and I think it will continue to be. The UN Declaration, at the very core of this declaration is the self-determination principle, and so it shows us that our nation is sort of on the right path here with our self-determination aspiration, self-government, Indigenous institutions, tribal cultures, the right to culture. All of these are related to our self-determination or sovereignty -- political sovereignty, cultural sovereignty, economic sovereignty. And so I think that this, as far as I can see, it’s still…and it’s the centerpiece of this UN Declaration and that’s why it’s pretty compatible with our existing U.S. policy and we need to continue on that path by just simply uplifting these different areas where our existing laws fall short of the UN standards.” 

Honoring Nations: Lenny Foster: Navajo Nation Corrections Project

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

Program Supervisor Lenny Foster with the Navajo Nations Corrections Projects discusses how and why the project was created, and it how it is advocating on behalf of Native Americans prisoners across the country to ensure that their civil rights and religious freedom rights are respected.

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Foster, Lenny. "Navajo Nation Corrections Project." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. September 11, 2004. Presentation.

Amy Besaw Medford:

"Next up we'll have Mr. Lenny Foster, who is the program supervisor of the Navajo Nation Corrections Project."

Lenny Foster:

"[Navajo language]. I want to express my appreciation for this privilege and this opportunity to share with you my thoughts and my feelings about the work that I have done for the last 24 years on behalf of the Navajo Nation, the Diné Nation. By way of introduction, I mentioned that I was a [Navajo language] born for [Navajo language], and my grandpas were [Navajo language] and [Navajo language], and that's important for our spiritual identity because the spirits recognize who we are when we introduce ourselves because the spirits are with us. And that's part of the concept in this area of spiritual counseling that the Navajo Nation has undertaken through the efforts and support from people like yourselves here.

I want to thank Dr. Manley Begay. Yesterday, he mentioned that we were at several campaigns through the [American] Indian Movement. I had the opportunity to travel and participate on a spiritual journey, pilgrimage, to Alcatraz Island. That was my start in the Indian rights movement. Then I moved on and that's when our paths crossed with my brother, Dr. Begay. The protests in Flagstaff, Arizona; Gordon, Nebraska; Gallup, New Mexico and places like that in the Trail of Broken Treaties caravan, BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] takeover in Washington, D.C., Wounded Knee '73, the Longest Walk. So that set the foundation for the work and the concept of overcoming the racism, overcoming discrimination, decolonizing, undoing the brainwashing that has taken place; a very intensive struggle that our people had to endure. We have prevailed, we're here today as evidenced by all of you. I applaud you.

I'm humbled being in your presence because [there's] so many brilliant, intelligent Indian people here. It's like the elite of the elite and I'm honored to be here with you in that manner. I had an opportunity to visit with Oren Lyons again and I told him that out of respect I want to enter his Ph.D. program, school of philosophy, "Oren Lyons School of Philosophy." That would be something, to have an Indian think tank right here at Harvard. You're talking about the history of this university. So maybe that's one of the things that you can all undertake is to bring philosophers and spiritual leaders and activists together to share and present in a think tank.

I want to say that in the past 24 years, it's been a very intensive struggle not only organizing, but advocating, promoting, educating, creating awareness and making every effort to raise the level of consciousness among our people who are incarcerated and their families and to overcome the colonization that has taken place because they made every extreme attempt to exterminate us. And today I see that the movement is the liberation of the mind, the body and the spirit; liberation meaning freedom. We talk about self-determination and sovereignty and I think that's what our work, what we commit and what we dedicate ourselves to that.

And today, I would be at the United States penitentiary, Leavenworth, visiting with my brother Leonard Peltier and conducting a sweat lodge for him, but I was asked to come here and participate in this significant and important forum and I agreed. So Leonard extends his love and his solidarity and expresses his support and respect for all of you. And while I'm in that area, I want to recognize some of the people who have been involved in this work such as Archie Fire -- he has gone -- Wallace Black Elk, John Funmaker, Cedrew Gali [sic], Larry Foster and Tex Joey [sic] and Eugene Doc Anderson. These are some of the spiritual leaders, my mentors that I worked with through the years in providing spiritual counseling in the prison setting. And that's the work that we do. We're perhaps the only tribal-funded program in the country and that's significant in that way because it took the vision of our leaders to support such a project because prison work is very controversial. Many people sometimes don't like it. They would rather...they say to me, 'Why don't you just lock them up and throw the key away or introduce the death penalty?' And I hear those comments made to me. I don't condone what they do to end up in prison. I think we have an obligation to reach out and support them because many of our young people are there because of alcohol-related crimes and they're going to be coming home. They're not going to be locked up forever. Some will be yes, but on the average they're 23 years old, they're doing six years. So they're going to come home. So we have an obligation to reach out and try to teach them the spiritual laws that what they did was wrong and most of them do accept that and recognize that. And some of the ceremonies that have been very effective as part of our spiritual counseling is the sweat lodge, pipe ceremonies, talking circles, tobacco ceremonies, the cell-side visits. I work with death row inmates and it's very important that we reach out to everyone like that that are locked up -- both men and women and juveniles.

Our program visits over 96 state, federal, tribal and juvenile detention. So we reach out to as many as 2,000 in one year and I believe that a survey that was done by the Native American Rights Fund, there were over 7,000 Native Americans that were identified, but that's a few years ago. I'm sure that has doubled by now. And this involves all the tribes, it's not just individual or smaller tribes, but some of the larger ones like the Diné (Navajo), Lakotas, Cherokees, Cheyenne, Tohono O'odham. These are Apaches, these are some of the larger tribes, but you know, you have other small tribes, too.

I had an opportunity to visit two facilities that stands out in my mind recently. One was at the federal correctional institution in Milan, Michigan, near Detroit and it had mostly Ottawa, Ojibwa, Menominees, Mohawks, Seneca; those were the ones that are incarcerated in that facility. Then I was also in the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge and there you have Crows, Cheyenne, Flatheads, Salish. So it was something that needs to be done and we're able to provide that. And I'll briefly go over in the interest of time, like I said, tribal funding. That's the funding that we're provided and I think that will continue, but the federal funding through the Indian Health Service I think is something that we need to continue to pursue.

In the course of our work, we've been able to organize on a national level, because like I said we're one of the very few tribal-funded programs in the country. We've had collaborations and meetings with different organizations throughout the country. The National Congress of American Indians have been supportive, the Native American Rights Fund and Native American Church of North America, the Minnesota Council on Crime and Justice, the Oglala Sioux Tribe. These are some of the organizations or Indian nations that have provided that support, and along the way we were able to provide positive and strong testimony on behalf of the religious freedom and human rights, civil rights, of Native Americans that are incarcerated, state prisons and federal penitentiaries on two occasions in the United States Congress. That's a hard struggle because Congress sometimes is not easily moved. So as a result, we've had to take these issues into the international forum and made two appearances before the Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Switzerland. And there at least the representatives of the United States heard our testimony. The United States Civil Rights Division heard the testimony that we provided and they approached me and wanted to know how we can sit down and discuss some of these concerns that they feel, you know, the denial of religious rights for the original people of this country. And we were bringing that into the international forum and the United States didn't like that.

So we sat down with the Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C. on three occasions to discuss how we can revise the different statutes that affect religious practices in the Federal Bureau of Prisons and we made some recommendations to them that those regulations and statutes and the policies need to be revised to allow every opportunity for Native Americans -- regardless of what nation they belong to -- the right to have access to their spiritual leaders, to have a right to wear long hair for spiritual beliefs and to have access to the cleansing and purification ceremony. These are simple, very simple, yet they deny our religious beliefs and say it's a security concern. They're afraid that speaking a language that's foreign to them is we're conspiring or that we're going to hide contraband in our long hair or that we're going to go in a sweat lodge and tunnel out. Absurd, completely absurd, but these are some of the excuses that are given.

And what do we see for the future? The different experiences that we had through lawsuits and litigation over the sweat lodge, over long hair, over spiritual leaders, we're not able to pursue that avenue today. The political climate being as it is, it's not conducive to winning a lawsuit. The First Amendment protection, the civil rights protection, it's not there. Legislation is an area that we pursued in several states, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Minnesota, and they were successful, but the problem there now is lack of compliance and lack of enforcement. We can't get them to enforce their own laws. And now we're pursing negotiations, just sitting down with these officials, the governor's office, the director of the department of corrections, the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the United States Attorney General, sitting down and just being diplomats and discussing ways of how this can be resolved. We end up compromising, but at least it's better than nothing, but you know that's what you need to continue that. So that's another area.

As I mentioned, the collaboration between the different agencies and entities, I think that needs to continue. The International Indian Treaty Council has been very supportive of our efforts to pursue these issues in the international forum and also the Navajo Nation has been very supportive throughout these years and I thank them whole-heartedly for that. And other Indian peoples who have come forth and supported our efforts; it's very much appreciated. To be recognized after 24 years in the struggle by Harvard University's Honoring Nations really means a lot. At least if my own people recognize me for the hard work that I've done, then it's been all worth it and I appreciate that.

So I think the human rights and the civil rights and the religious freedom issues that the Navajo Nation Corrections Project has undertaken, a lot of that is just an extension from the Indian rights movement, the American Indian Movement and the work that I've done is reflected from that experience. I'm not ashamed to say that I'm a member of the American Indian Movement, I was for many years and I still believe in it. I'm a sun dancer, I attend Native American Church prayer services, I carry a medicine bundle from my own people [Navajo language] and I sun danced with the Lakotas. The International Indian Treaty Council has also been responsible for this support of religious freedom for our Indian people. So these are some of the organizations that I give my utmost respect.

So some of the recommendations, I guess, or the solutions that we see hopefully for the next three to five years is that we'd like to see uniform standards established for religious practices across the United States prison system. We'd also like to see a congressional hearing and have these issues discussed before Congress and have all the Indian nations present testimony on these violations of human rights, civil rights. That might be a tall order, but that's something that we need to pursue. And also a commission study that needs to be done of how many Indian people are in prison throughout this country. Nobody knows. How many years are they doing, the men and women, juveniles? They're all forgotten. So this commission study that we would propose is important. And maybe an executive order by the president allowing Native Americans the right to practice their spiritual, religious and cultural beliefs and practices without any harassment, without any indifference, without any racism or discrimination. So that's another recommendation.

And I think the counseling at the schools and the home, each Indian nation and tribe have an obligation to really actively pursue that, to work with our youth so our people won't end up in prison. We have major problems with alcohol, marijuana, cocaine; now it's methamphetamines. There's a dangerous precedent that's being set here so we have an obligation to seriously look at those, because they're addictive and if we don't make an obligation or commitment it's going to overwhelm us. We don't want all of our young Indian people in prison, you know, and that seems to be a trend if we don't do anything about it and that's something that we see, the intervention and the prevention with the youth and the community.

The spiritual laws must be respected and re-learned. That's the thing about the clients that we have through the corrections that we do counseling and we see there's a lot of learning taking place because there's so much anger, so much rage, among our young people. And I asked these young gang members that were in prison from my community, from Fort Defiance -- because we had a serious problem with gang members where they were just shooting up the community and terrorizing, they ended up in prison -- and I asked them, I said, 'Why are you so angry, what's bothering you?' They were upset at their parents. They were upset because they didn't feel, they were neglected and abandoned, they weren't learning. There was something inside of them that wanted to express their Indianness, but they didn't have an outlet. They felt they'd been cheated out of learning the language. And that might be extreme, but that's the feelings of many of our young people that are incarcerated. So ceremonies are very important, the counseling is very important. And even those individuals that are in death row, we have Indian people who are on death row, they need our support and outreach.

So that's what I want to share and express and say thank you. I'd like to show a very brief clip of this tape that I brought with me. It's called A Seat at the Table: Struggling for American Indian Religious Freedom and it was a documentary that was made in Cape Town, South Africa several years ago by Gary Rhine and those of you who wish to have a copy, give me your address and we'll make sure you get a copy of this. So I just want to thank you for your attention and your time." 

Oren Lyons: Looking Toward the Seventh Generation

Producer
University of Arizona
Year

Onondaga Chief and Faithkeeper Oren Lyons discusses the increasingly urgent issues of global warming and climate change and points to Indigenous peoples, their core values, and their reciprocal relationships to the natural world as sources of instruction for human beings to heed in order to combat those issues.

People
Resource Type
Citation

Lyons, Oren. "Looking Toward the Seventh Generation." American Indian Studies Program, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 17, 2008. Presentation.

“A lot of thank you’s today and I especially want to thank my elders here who gave a blessing and reminded me as well as everybody else that we are connected to the earth very closely and we should be thankful for everything that we do. And that was our instructions: give thanks, be grateful. I want to thank the American Studies in…Indian Studies in Arizona for bringing me here, and Moran for taking the time, and Carol for trucking me about, and to David for taking care of me. And everybody’s been so great to me so I really appreciate it here. Obviously going to have to come back and spend more time. Right now, I’m just on the move, but the reason why is important. It’s my mission to bring news to you, maybe not good news, but news that you should know about and things that are going on in the world.

I come from Onondaga, upstate New York. I come from the Six Nations. English call us 'Six Nations,' French call us 'Iroquois,' and we ourselves are the 'Haudenosaunee.' Six Nations: the Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Onondagas, the Cayugas, the Senecas and the Tuscarora. We’re an old alliance, we’re a confederation based on peace and we were gathered together some thousand years ago to cease fighting amongst ourselves and to become productive in creating and working with one another bringing peace. There was a spiritual being, messenger we called The Peacemaker. He has a name and the only time we ever use that name is when we raise leaders and we raise the [Native language], what you call 'chiefs,' then you’ll hear his name, but otherwise than that we call him The Peacemaker. And he came to five warring nations at that time and I won’t go through the epic story of his life and how he arrived at the Mohawks and how he went from one Nation to the other changing these fighting men to peace. So finally gathered on the shores of Onondaga Lake, where 50 men who formerly were enemies of one another and he laid down for us the whole constitution based on peace, the principle of peace and health, of equity, justice for the people and of unity, the power of the good minds and the power of the collective working together --one mind, one body, one heart, one spirit. And we’ve prospered under that instruction over these many years.

And today I represent in the council at Onondaga the Turtle Clan. I myself am a Wolf. I’ve been borrowed from the Wolfs to the Turtle -- temporarily, they said -- that was 41 years ago. You know how Indians are. So I’ve been there for a long time and the Onondaga Nation is the central fire of the Confederacy and we still maintain our structure of raising leaders and removing leaders. We’re probably the last of the traditional governments still in charge of land. And on our nation at Onondaga, we have no Bureau of Indian Affairs; we’re independent. I just traveled from Sweden to here. I traveled on a passport issued at Onondaga and we’ve been using that passport for now since 1977. It’s an instruction in maintaining your identity, who you are, the importance of being who you are and knowing who you are, instructing your children as to who you are. And most of that comes from songs like Mr. Lopez was singing -- that’s our instruction -- to the moon. We call that our grandmother. We have close relations with the earth. The earth’s our mother. You can’t get any closer than that. And from that point on, we’ve always been instructed by the Peacemaker on many things. When he gathered the people at Onondaga on the Onondaga Lake so many years ago and he instructed us how we would sit and what our clans would be and the authorities and the duties of the women and the men and the people and how this would continue and we’ve maintained that. Now in today’s times, we’re kind of alone in this traditional government, but traditions are everywhere. Every nation has kept their traditions, even though the BIA may be there and even though there may be government authorities, the traditions are still there, songs are still there, language is still there. And the information that’s in the language is what people are seeking today, some instruction.

And so I’ve been a runner for the Onondaga Nation and then the confederacy itself and at times for Indigenous people around the world. I was one of those people who were educated and they said, ‘Well, you can talk like they do. You get out there and you tell them.’ And so I get my instructions from the councils. I don’t have any great wealth of wisdom or so forth. I just understand what I’ve been instructed with and pass that on. Our leaders, our people, don’t like to get up in front of people and speak like that unless it’s our own people. Then they can really speak. So what is the nature of my discussion today, tonight? I had the good fortune to speak to your students here and some of your faculty this morning and it kind of outlined for me what I thought I should be talking about. First of all the introduction of ourselves: the Six Nations has about 18 communities, territories, both about half in Canada and half in the United States. We’re in three states. We’re in Wisconsin, New York and Oklahoma and two provinces in Canada, Quebec and Ontario. And then we have our people all over. Met an Onondaga girl tonight at dinner. She’s over here and her family was here and it was really nice to meet one of my young people here. So we travel far and wide and the message is always the same, it’s always about peace. But today some of the things that were told to us might be helpful here.

When The Peacemaker finally had laid out the whole system for us, he said, ‘Now I’m going to plant this great tree of peace, this great white pine.’ He said, ‘It’ll be the symbol for your Nation.’ He said, ‘It will have four white roots of truth for reaching the four cardinal directions of the earth.’ And he says, ‘Those people who have no place to go can follow the root back to its source and come under the protection of the great tree of peace.’ He said, among a lot of instructions to us as leaders, ‘Prepare yourself for the work that’s in front of you.’ He gave us a lot of instructions. Some of them I’ll tell you about. He said, ‘You as leaders will now have to have skin seven spans thick, seven spans like the bark of a tree,’ he said, ‘to withstand the abuse you’re going to take as leaders. And it won’t be from your enemies, it’s going to be from your family and your friends.’ He said, ‘And don’t wait for any thanks because that’ll be slow in coming.’ He said, ‘Move on.’ He said, ‘When people are angry and they speak in a loud voice, you have to listen to what they’re saying because they’re saying something.’ He said, ‘Try to hear the message through the anger.’ And he said, ‘You cannot respond in kind. Listen. Hear what they’re saying.’ And he said, ‘When you sit and you council for the welfare of the people, think not of yourself nor of your family nor even your generation.’ He said, ‘Make your decisions on behalf of the seventh generation coming. Those faces looking up from the earth,’ he said, ‘layer upon layer waiting their time.’ He said, ‘Defend them, protect them, they’re helpless, they’re in your hands. That’s your duty, your responsibility. You do that, you yourself will have peace.’

So he told us to look ahead. It was an instruction of responsibility of what we are supposed to do. So because I stand here as a representative of our Nation, still carrying the titles, seven generations ago someone was looking out for me or else I wouldn’t be here. So each one of us are any seventh generation and ahead of us are our responsibilities. And we have to take that seriously if they are to have a good life like ours. Our people have gone through a lot of pain and a lot of misery. We’ve suffered removals, genocide, yet we’re still here today. I heard the song and I knew we were still here and everywhere you go you’ll hear those songs. So today as a human being, as a species, I don’t think we have time for being Red or being Black or being White or being Yellow or Brown. I don’t think we have time for that anymore. We have to work together. We have to put aside all of that racism that’s been so destructive, continues. We just don’t have time for that. There’s changes coming and they’re close at hand and very soon we’re going to have to gather ourselves together around the world, and mobilize in our own defense, for our own survival, as a human species. We won’t have time for wars. We’ll need all the money that’s being spent on arms for defense of ourselves and protection of all of nature.

One time, long ago, sitting in the long house when we were having one of our ceremonies, Thanksgiving, we had a visitor who came from the north. He was a Mohawk and they asked him to sing and he was singing the [Native language], the Great Feather Dance. I couldn’t understand Mohawk, but I understood some of the words and then he spoke about my family, [Native word], the Wolf, and I said, ‘What is he saying?’ Because as they sang this Great Feather Dance, there’s a preamble where the beat is slow and they sang and they talk about a lot of things before the dance starts. This was all slow. In our Longhouse, the men are on one side of the house and the women on the other side of the house. So I went down to my grandmother who was sitting there and I said, ‘Gram, what is that man saying?’ And she says, ‘Oh,’ she says, ‘it’s an old song.’ She said, ‘I haven’t heard that in a long time.’ I said, ‘He’s talking about the wolf.’ She said, ‘Yes, he is.’ I said, ‘What is it?’ ‘Well,’ she said, ‘he’s talking about the road to the Creator and how beautiful it is and how we should all be walking in that direction and see the strawberries on the side of the road, the path that we’re taking.” The ‘Good Red Road’ they call it, the ‘Good Road.’ And she said, ‘What he’s saying is that on the side in a path like ours, walking beside us is a wolf, both going in the same direction.’ And I said, ‘What does that mean?’ She said, ‘Don’t know. It’s always been a mystery.’

I ponder that a lot of times and I think that he is the representative for the animal world, the spiritual way. And he’s my family, so I’m wondering what does that mean? And I think that he’s like a, well, our uncle maybe. And that whatever happens to the Wolf is going to happen to us. I think that’s what he is. He represents the earth itself and all the life on it. So when you look about and you see what’s going on today and how they’re treating the Wolf, it makes you think that we have to do better, we have to understand. Our nations, they do know about relationship and that’s what it is, it’s a relationship. Our Lakota friends and relatives they say, at the end of their prayer, ‘All our relations…all of our relations,’ and what they mean is literally all life. And when The Peacemaker was instructing the leaders so long ago, he said, ‘Now into your hands I am placing the responsibility for all life in this world.’ And he meant all the trees and all the fish and all the animals and all the medicine and all the water and everything there is, all life, and that’s a responsibility that has kept us here all these years. That’s how we’ve survived. He said, ‘Give thanks, be thankful for what you have.’ And so I see that our nations, the Indian nations, have created great ceremonies of thanksgiving, some that last for days, of thanksgiving and connection with your relatives. And I think that’s what people have to do now in the world. They have to recognize that they are not independent, that they’re just a part of life and you can’t remove all the animals or cut all the trees or catch all the fish without consequence. And so here we are, today’s times facing the consequence of our lost relationship and our lost responsibility.

When we raise leaders in the Longhouse, the old style, what they call the great condolence, it’s a long day. We go through all the laws, all the instructions, instructions to the leaders, instructions to the clan mothers, to the faith keepers, to the chiefs, and then instructions to the people. And it’s the longest instruction when it comes to the people. The people receive the most instruction because they have the most work to do. Leaders are there to help guide you, to be responsible, to initiate positions but the people are the ones that do the work, they’re the ones that have to be the nation. In our language, we don’t have a word for 'warrior.' That’s an English word and it comes from Europe and they were fighting over there. I’ve been traveling over there and I looked at their history, centuries and centuries of fighting. There’s great battlements over there, there’s castles, there’s amazing instruments of war. In Oslo, Norway, there’s a battlement and it starts way back somewhere around the 10th century and each year they made it bigger and bigger and soon it was big enough to hold horses and soon it was big enough to hold battalions of men and it just got bigger and bigger. And I looked on the walls and I saw the armaments and the shields, the axes, the battle axes and they were chipped and broken, heavy swords were nicked and the shields were sliced. And I said, ‘These people fight. These people fight hard.’ I said, ‘It must be hard to be that kind of a life where all you do is fight from one generation to the next.’ We call our men '[Native language].' '[Native language]' means ‘those men without titles who carry the bones of their ancestors on their backs.’ That’s what we call our men, not warrior, '[Native language],' responsible beings, strong men, strong. And they were [strong] or else we wouldn’t be here. And the women right there with them, strong women. Strong families, good instruction, close relations, carried us for a long time until we run across technology of war, weapons and guns, powder.

I won’t go through all that, but all that’s in our history, all that’s in the past and here it is today. And interesting that I’m standing here representative of the Haudenosaunee talking to you about peace and how do you get peace and how do you find peace. You find it by being thankful for what you have and you find it for being grateful for what you have and being in defense of what you have and being closely related to the life that sustains us. We’ve become so independent from the earth itself that we think we are independent and that’s brought us to this point here where we are. Now we’re about to see what the real authority is and how inconsequential we are. We have to work together now. We have to put aside all of this and we have to raise leaders about peace. We have to raise leaders who are going to look out for the people, who are going to look out for the earth and for the lands and the waters. The cod fishing up here off the east banks of the United States is broken; cod is broken. Cod that were once five feet long, hundreds of pounds, down to one and two pounds, fishing them right off the bottom. Can’t fish the cod anymore. Herring, we’re losing the herring. We’re polluting the oceans themselves. We’re polluting the earth itself. We’re leaving a legacy for our children which is really destructive. The high incidents of asthma in children in the east is amazing now, all the kids got asthma and that comes from bad air, that comes from pollution.

And so the instructions that our people had a long time ago still reverberate, long-term thinking, decision making, long-term thinking and you come across the discussion today about bottom lines. What is a bottom line? That’s an economic term, it means the bottom line. Is it a profit or is it a loss? It’s an economic term, that’s what bottom line means. Somebody asked me one time, they said, ‘Well, what’s your bottom line? Everybody’s got a bottom line.’ It caught me a little off guard. I said, ‘Gee, I never thought about that. What is our bottom line?’ And I thought about it awhile. I said, ‘You know, we don’t have a bottom line.’ He says, ‘Everybody’s got a bottom line.’ I said, ‘No, no, no.’ I said, ‘We don’t have a bottom line.’ I said, ‘We live in a cycle, a circle.’ I said, ‘We just go around and around. There’s no bottom line.’ He didn’t have an answer to that, but that in fact is the way it is. Our ceremonies go around the lunar clock, we reach the end it starts over again.

I was talking to the Mayans, our brothers down there in Central America, and I was saying to them, ‘Well, you guys have a calendar that’s coming to an end in 2012.’ ‘Yes,’ they said, ‘that’s true.’ I said, ‘Well, what’s going to happen? What’s going to happen when the calendar comes to an end?’ ‘Well,’ they said, ‘these are 5,000-year calendars so we’ll just start another one.’ Yeah, they made me feel that way too, a little relief there. They did say, though, they said, ‘However,’ they said, ‘there will be a period of enlightenment.’ ‘Oh, what is that, enlightenment?’ ‘Well, you see something.’ I’m thinking, ‘A period of enlightenment, what could that be?’

Well, I thought of this man that was working very hard, decided he was going to take a day off and he was out there on Long Island. Good fishing out there off the Montauk Point in Long Island, big fish out there, come right around the corner. So he said, ‘Well, I’m going to go fishing today, the heck with everything.’ So he went, nice boat, way out there. Hot day. He said, ‘The water looks good. I think I’ll jump in the water, take a little swim.’ So he did. He’s swimming around there, a little ways away from the boat and then he sees this big fin coming towards him, big fin. ‘Oh, no,’ he said. He’s looking at the boat, looking at the fin figuring, ‘how much time have I got?’ Well, that’s a moment of enlightenment. So I hope it’s not going to be that way for us.

The other thing The Peacemaker said was, he said, ‘Never take hope from the people.’ It’s a good instruction. Never take hope from the people. He said, ‘Find a way, find a way.’ So this is hard today, find a way. I’ve been on this road now about global warming for some time and human rights. I’ve been working for our human rights and maybe that’s another section of discussion we should have. In September 2007, September 12th of 2007, Indigenous peoples of the world weren’t peoples. We were populations. In the vernacular of human rights and political discussions in the United Nations, we were always referred to as populations because populations don’t have human rights. Peoples have human rights and for 30 years we’ve been battling in this United Nations for that to be recognized that we are people. And I wondered and I wondered, ‘Why is it or how could it be that there is a declaration, the universal declaration on human rights, so should we not be included and why aren’t we people and why aren’t we included?' Because all those 30 years we’ve been at the U.N., we’ve been developing our own declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples. They would not accept the term 'peoples.' They never used that term, we did. They didn’t. And 'peoples' with an 's'. 'People' is a generic term, it means everybody. But when you say 'peoples' with an 's', ah, now you’re talking about Tohono O’odham, you’re talking about Arapahoes, Cheyennes, Apaches, Senecas. You know there’s 561 Indian nations in this country today. That’s a lot of peoples and there were many, many more than that that are gone forever. Still there’s quite a few of us. Here we are. So 'peoples' with an 's', we were fighting to be recognized. Well, on September 13th, the next day, the United Nations adopted the Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with an 's'. We made a huge step on the political scene of this world. Of course we always knew we were peoples but that’s a political term and highly charged. We learned that. When you start fussing around there with language, we learned about terminology, what tribes mean, what bands of Indians mean. That’s why we say we are nations. We are nations! The buffalos are nations. They are nations. The wolves are nations. That’s who we are. Yes! But they didn’t think so and we were subjugated.

And how is that, how can that be, how can you take a whole Indigenous people of the world and subjugate them to something less than human? Well, that was done in 1493 by the papal bulls of the Roman Catholic Church and they said in this directive, this bull, they said, this was the pope, ‘If there are no Christian nations in this new lands that you’ve discovered, then I declare those lands to be terra nullius, empty, empty lands,’ old Roman law, terra nullius, ‘Furthermore, if there are people there and they are not Christians, they do not have right of title to land. They have only the right of occupancy.’ And there, one year after the discovery of a whole hemisphere by fiat, it was taken by a declaration from a pope in Portugal. How about that? And we’ve been struggling ever since. We’ve been struggling to come out from underneath that. King of England said, ‘Well, I’m as good as a pope. I like that idea. Works for me.’ So he issued the same directive, 1496 to the Cabots, colonizing the new land. ‘By my authority the land is yours.’ Over here of course, here we were, happily planting. We were planting corn and they were planting flags. Big difference. It was pointed out today, this morning in our session, someone had noticed that just a few months ago that the Russians had taken a submarine up to the North Pole and planted a flag at the North Pole. Anybody remember that? Now why do you think they did that? It’s the Doctrine of Discovery. They took a lot of trouble to get a submarine and go to the bottom, find the North Pole and put the Russian flag there. They were claiming land. And if you remember, when the United States landed on the moon, what was the first thing they did? I think I saw a flag standing there wasn’t it? First thing. Doctrine of Discovery: it’s operational today. So you say, ‘How can that be?’

Well, it became installed in U.S. federal law in 1823 in Johnson vs. McIntosh and the issue was Indian land and Judge [John] Marshall, a very famous judge said, and it was not Indians fighting over lands, it was two white men fighting over Indian land, saying, ‘Boys, boys, boys. You’ve got it wrong,’ he said. ‘Don’t worry, that land doesn’t belong to the Indians,’ and recited the Doctrine of Discovery. And he went back and he quoted the King of England and the Cabots and installed that into U.S. federal law. 1955; Tee-hit-ton Indians made a land claim and they were defeated by the Doctrine of Discovery [in the] Supreme Court of the United States. Gitxsan Indians made a land claim, British Columbia 1991, not very long ago, and they lost the case to the Canadian government based on the Doctrine of Discovery. Last year, small town Sherrill, New York, suing the United Nation of New York for taxes, went to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court said, ‘Yes, Oneidas, you owe them money based on the Doctrine of Discovery.’ So you think that’s an old law? It’s operational today. That’s why we’re having all this hard time. So it’s racist and it’s also religious law, what you call…a country that proclaims that religion and state are separate. Not under those rules they’re not. How can that be?

Well, we’re studying that. We challenged the 'Holy C' because that’s the root of it all naturally and supported by all Christian nations because that became what they call the Law of Nations. They just made up a law and said, ‘Let’s all get in on it,’ so we lost our land. And if you go to court, you’re going to wind up right there. So there can’t be any justice in the court for us. So the paradigms have to change. When people realize that things are so bad and you understand what’s right and what’s wrong, then you have to change the paradigm itself. Common usage, well, if it’s wrong, it’s wrong. So we’re challenging now the Holy C and we did have a meeting. I gave a strong position on treaties and the Doctrine of Discovery last year at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the United Nations and 10 minutes after the Holy C came up to us and said, ‘We have to have a meeting,’ because they have a seat at the United Nations. I don’t know why, but the Roman Catholic Church has a seat there. And they said, ‘We’ve got to have a meeting.’ So we said, ‘Fine. Fine. 500 years, about time isn’t it?’ So we went upstairs and we met with their leaders, the bishop, very well versed and he had his lawyers with him and he said, ‘What is it that you want?’ I said, ‘Well, you’re going to have to do something about this Doctrine of Discovery because it’s causing us great pain in the courts today, right now.’ He said, ‘Well, we don’t…we’ve disavowed that many times.’ I said, ‘Well, it’s not good enough. It’s not good enough. You’re going to have to do something better, more profound.’ And he said, ‘What would that be?’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘it would be good if your pope confessed to the Indians and Indigenous people that he was wrong, that the Church was wrong; a confession from the pope.’ I said, ‘You people believe in that confession pretty much, don’t you? Good for the soul they say. How about that?’ ‘Well, there’s got to be a better way,’ they said.

So we are in discussion with them. They did write a letter back but in the meantime we’ve talked to Pace University and they have agreed to do a moot court on the Doctrine of Discovery so we’re going to vet this issue. Right now they’re preparing a position to be made at the United Nations in Barcelona, Spain, this fall on the issue of the Doctrine of Discovery. And I would like to see a hearing held in every one of those Christian nations; France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, England, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Sweden. There’s your Christian nations and every one of them should be taught their own history because they don’t know about it, American people don’t know about it but the governments do, they know. So the battle is on. Be that as it may, and we will strive on, but I think before we see the result of that we’re going to be engulfed in global warming and it’s going to take our attention off of everything else except what we’re going to face as humanity.

I was working with a group called the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders for Human Survival. Through the ‘80s, ‘90s we were meeting on that issue [global warming] and there were very luminous individuals there like Mother Teresa, the Dali Lama and the Archbishop of Canterbury and Al Gore. Al Gore was talking back then. He was saying, ‘Hey, problem here.’ And we met and we met [in] Moscow hosted by President [Mikhail] Gorbachev, who’s a great environmentalist by the way, knows what he’s talking about. In 1991, we said, ‘Well, how long are we going to meet here? We’re going to meet, just meet, meet, meet and we don’t come to a conclusion, let’s get to a conclusion.’ So in Tokyo, we came to a conclusion and it was four words. After all these meetings, all these years, we came down to four words: 'value change for survival.' If you don’t change your values that are running this world right now, you’re not going to survive. You can’t run on the values you’re running on right now. You’re going to have to change it. You’re going to have to look to the Indians for that change. Thanksgiving, sharing. You’re going to have to share. Not accrue; share everything, big time. We’ve got a chance. We’ve got a chance. Just the fact that you’re all here. If you’re going to wait for leaders to lead you, see you on the other side. You have to do it yourself. You’ve got to do the leading. You have to step forward and you’ve got to speak up in defense of your families and your lives in the future. You don’t have time. Things are just going to get worse. Talk to the Inuits or the hunters up in Alaska they’ll tell you, ’Whoo hoo, it’s bad up here. Dogs won’t go out on the ice. Hunters don’t know whether they’re going to come back.’ They’ve got to go. They’re subsistence hunters. They’ve got to go but whether they come back is always a question now. They say the same thing in Greenland, same thing in Nunavut. It’s really…you can see the change up in the Arctic Circle better than any other place because it’s really moving at a very fast pace and it’s accelerating.

Now, this is the other thing that you have to keep in mind. The process that we’re engulfed in is a 'compound' action and if you ask what a compound is, compound is what Professor Einstein said was the most powerful law of the universe, a compound. We have two compounds going on right now. One is the ice melt and the other is human population. When I was 20 years old in 1950, there were 2.5 billion people in the world. Here we are 58 years later and there’s 6.7 billion people in the world. That’s a compound, unsustainable and growing as we stand. Every four days there’s another million people born. Did you know that, every four days? That means food, water, shelter and land for every one of those individuals. We’re pressing the caring capacity right now. That’s a reality. It’s hard news, but you’ve got to hear it. And so what do we do? Ah, that’s the question. So you do, you know what you do, you gather your people in a circle, your families, your community and you say to each other, ‘All right, let’s have a meeting here. Let’s have a meeting and let’s decide what we’re going to do.’ And you will, you will decide and you will find a way when you sit and talk to each other like that because that’s how we always used to do. The people will decide. So the fate of our own lives and of the future is in our hands, no one else’s and it doesn’t do me or anybody else any good to say, ‘Well, I told you so.’ That doesn’t mean anything. But mobilization, yes, and this country, the United States has the greatest possibility for change than any other country in the world. We use one quarter of the world’s resources. We’re less than six percent of the population of the world and we use one quarter of the world’s resources. Well, just our change will help a great deal. But that’s the values. You have to make up your mind.

In our meetings overseas talking about energy, a big issue water and energy, because water’s life, water’s food, energy. Well, for so long we were just level -- if you notice, you see the graphs -- for millions of years here we are, human beings just going along like this. And then suddenly about the beginning of the Industrial Revolution they called it, the graphs changed and they start going this way. They start climbing about 1850; both the population and…they’re just together. So what does that mean? It means at one time we were living by the energy of the sun for one day and we could only use one day’s energy. We couldn’t save it, couldn’t store it, there was no electricity, you had to work with the sun and we did. That’s how we planted, that’s how we harvested. We worked with the sun, one day at a time so we couldn’t exceed, there was no way. Well, when we discovered electricity, ooh, things changed. Now there was refrigeration, now there was storage, now there was energy storage and the more energy we made the more we used and if we make more energy today we’ll use more. Why? Because that’s our values; so we have to change our values then. Can we do it? Well, I say yes but that’s really your answer, not mine.

I mean we live at Onondaga, eh, we’re like you guys. We’re pretty close, the same kind of lifestyle but we do keep our ceremonies and we do know who we are and we do give thanks and I think that’s what you’re going to have to do. You’re going to have to find your ceremonies again, you’re going to have to find a way to give thanks, to get your relationship back, to understand how close you’re related to the trees that you’re cutting down, your grandfathers. There’s renewable if you know how to do things, if you’re judicious. Old Indians used to have a game; it was a game everybody played. And you’d be traveling back in the old days and make a camp beside a stream somewhere, river, good place to spend the night, you’d make a camp. Then the next day you would leave but before you left you would put back every leaf, every twig so that the next person coming along would have to look and look and look to see whether somebody was there. It was a game. It was a game about being thankful. It was a way to understand how to keep things so they wouldn’t even know you were there. What a good game. What a peaceful way to deal with Mother Earth. That was our style.

So we have to think about things like that. We have to work with one another, we have to be much more friendly than we always were and we have to share. That’s the biggest issue, share. It goes against the grain of private property, goes against the grain of capitalism, but that’s brought us to where we are today. So if you want to hang onto that, there’s consequence. Our options are fewer and fewer every day. Every day we don’t do something we lose a day. We’re approaching the point of no return when no matter what we do will not matter at all ever. We turn our fate over to the great systems of this earth who will regulate, who’ll regulate our population, will regulate the temperature of the earth and we will be involved there as a consequence. So this is what I’m telling you and I’m not an alarmist, but I have been running this road for a while now and I think people have to know the truth and this administration that’s presently in control has been really negligent about giving the truth of the situation of the earth itself because it interferes with business. Well, Telberg, they said, ‘Business as usual is over. You can’t do business as usual, you just can’t.’ And it’s going to be cooperation rather than competition. You’re going to cooperate. If you’re going to survive it’s going to be cooperation rather than competition. It goes against the grain of this great industrial state here but nevertheless it’s a reality: share, divest, share.

You’re going to have to deal with Africa. You’re going to have to look after Africa. What happens to Africa happens to us. You have to feed people where they live, you have to provide for them, otherwise they’re here. They’ll go where the water is; they’ll go where the food is. So great migrations pushed by circumstance is what we’re looking at. Anyway, I think that we have maybe another Katrina, the fires that you’ve been enduring here, they’re not going to go away, they’re just going to get worse. Fires are here, floods, wind, grandfather. We call them grandfathers, soft winds, but they’re powerful; they’re coming. And let’s hope we have foresight and I say let’s hope we have the will, the fortitude to take on the responsibility of value change for survival. We have to inspect ourselves, every one of us, myself included and we’ve just got to do better. We have to enlighten ourselves, we have to learn, we have to understand what is coming, then you can deal with it. We’re always instructed, ‘Don’t put your head down, never put your head down, keep your head up and keep your eyes open and look and see. Always keep your head up.’ That’s where we are right now. There’s something in the wind, we know that, so we have to find out specifically what it is.

So in that regard, I’ll be a little practical here, I’ve been…I use these books myself and, let me see, here’s one, 2008, called the State of the World: Innovations for a Sustainable Economy. Good ideas in there; practical approach to reality. You can find this book. It’s only about $20. It’s the 25th anniversary of the World Watch Institute and they have a huge science section and they’ve been collecting this information and every year they just add more on so they’re right up to date. Good book to educate yourself. It’s available for $20; you can spare that.

Here’s another one. Plan B, what’s that tell you? Plan B, we’re already in Plan B. Lester Brown. Okay, this is this year. Oh, man, this guy’s got it down. You get through this thing you’ll know what they’re talking about. But he doesn’t leave you without hope. He gives a lot of direction, a lot of ways to move and what to do so you’ve got to keep your head up and you’ve got to move and you’ve got to take…we don’t have time, time’s a factor now in everything really.

Okay. Let’s see what else we’ve got here. Oh, here’s one. Pagans in the Promised Land: Doctrine of Discovery. This is the hottest one. It’s just come out. You can get it on Amazon. Pagans in the Promised Land, this is the Doctrine of Discovery and this really discusses laws and all of the information here. Steve Newcomb. A young man came to us, elder circle 1991 carrying stuff under his arm saying, ‘Hey, you guys got to see what I got here.’ And that’s when we found out about the Doctrine of Discovery. Now it’s…we’re in consultation.

Here’s one: Voices of Indigenous People. This is the first statements that we made at the U.N. [in] 1993, the first time we addressed the United Nations. 1972, I was with a group of people who were trying to get to the United Nations and they wouldn’t let us across the street. We couldn’t go across the street. There was a phalanx of police and we had to be on this side of the street looking at the U.N. building, 1972. 1993, I was the first one to address the general assembly on the dais of the U.N. So the progress, hard fought progress to get there. But these are the words of the leaders of Indigenous people around the world, pretty much the same today as when they were done. But what’s good about this book here is it has the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in its pure form. Now the one that’s passed has been modified. We lost traction here and there but we did keep our main principle but we did lose some. But the original is right here in this book. So some day maybe you’ve got the time to see what that is.

Here’s another one. It’s written by Lindsey G. Robertson called Conquest by Law. This is again the Doctrine of Discovery. And here was a guy that was just curious about it. He got some names and he said, ‘Gee, I ought to follow what happened to these people.’ And he found out that the law firm that was fighting this case had all of these papers and that they put it in a big trunk, it was going to go to England. So he found the family in Ohio and he said, ‘Can I find out where you sent those…that trunk of papers on the Doctrine of Discovery, Johnson vs. McIntosh?’ They said, ‘Well, it never went. It’s downstairs in the cellar.’ So that’s what this book is. So stuff like that, stuff we didn’t have before we do now and things have got to change and fairness to everybody. I’m going to leave some of this stuff with the University.

Do you know that in March of this year that the State of Arizona supported the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a state? Did you know that? That’s a great event, first state in the Union to do that. I have it right here. I was here or up there in…so you can be proud. Here’s the event that’s in here. It also has a complete description of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as it is now. So I’m going to leave that here, people can copy [it] and you can look at statements made.

What else here? I know we have somewhere…oh, here we are. Statement: The ice is melting in the north. This was a statement that was given by the Indigenous people at the United Nations in the year 2000, eight years ago we said, ‘The ice is melting.’ Now they didn’t listen to us then but here we are halfway there but we’ve still got time. So I’ll leave this with you as well. So you’ll have something to work with and maybe it’ll be the great State of Arizona that changes everything, who knows and why not? You’ve got to start somewhere. You’ve got a lot of Indigenous people here, you’ve got a lot of Indian nations here still hanging in there.

So I think that’s enough for tonight, don’t you? I mean I don’t know what you were expecting. But we’re all in it together. There’s one river of life, we’re in our canoe, you’re in your boat, we’re on the same river. What happens to one happens to the other. So it’s in our hands; that’s the end of my message, I think. It’s up to us to organize. They’re doing it in Europe, big time so you’re not going to be alone. You’re not going to be alone. They’re looking for allies. We’re looking for allies. So as a runner from the Haudenosaunee, well, I’m walking now, I don’t run much anymore but I bring you this message as a fellow human being and as a man with a mission and I think it’s a good fight. I think it’s a good fight and I like a good fight. Let’s do it, let’s get on…let’s get on with it. Educate yourself. I’m leaving some stuff here and organize, sit in the circle, talk. Don’t just do something; make sure it’s a good move. Talk it over, work together because unity…

When The Peacemaker brought the five nations together he took an arrow and he broke the arrow, then he took five arrows for the five nations and he took the sinew of the deer and he bound those arrows together, he bound them together hard and then he said, ‘Here is your strength, to be united, one mind, one body, one heart, one spirit, your strength.’ We’re brothers and sisters, we can change blood. That’s how close we are.

Take your time, take your reflections and think about it and ponder it and talk and talk and work your way careful into a good move, strong move. Tell all your relations.” 

Embrace Our Sovereignty or Continue the Genocide?

Author
Producer
Two Row Times
Year

“The most consistent theme in the descriptions penned about the New World was amazement at the Indians’ personal liberty, in particular their freedom from rulers and from social classes based on ownership of property. For the first time the French and the British became aware of the possibility of living in social harmony and prosperity without the rule of a king.” — Jack Weatherford, “Indian Givers”

Almost immediately, all that was known about society, government and social order had come into question for the Europeans who washed up on our shores half a millennium ago. Social order without a hierarchy? Equality? Even between genders? Unalienable rights bestowed to all by Creation?

Resource Type
Citation

Kane, John. "Embrace Our Sovereignty or Continue the Genocide?" Let's Talk Native. The Two Row Times. March 25, 2014. Opinion. (http://www.tworowtimes.com/opinions/columns/lets-talk-native/embrace-our..., accessed April 11, 2023)

Indigenous Peoples’ Good Governance, Human Rights and Self-Determination in the Second Decade of the New Millennium – A Māori Perspective

Author
Producer
Māori Law Review
Year

This brief paper addresses the nexus between good governance, human rights and Indigenous peoples’ self-determination particularly from Articles 3-6 and 46 of the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The paper is placed within a Māori good governance context with some broader discussion of the Pacific.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Topics
Citation

Joseph, Robert. "Indigenous Peoples’ Good Governance, Human Rights and Self-Determination in the Second Decade of the New Millennium — A Māori Perspective." MāoriLaw Review. December 2014. Article. (http://maorilawreview.co.nz/2014/12/indigenous-peoples-good-governance-h..., accessed July 25, 2023)

Indian Tribes and Human Rights Accountability

Year

In Indian country, the expansion of self-governance, the growth of the gaming industry, and the increasing interdependence of Indian and non-Indian communities have intensified concern about the possible abuse of power by tribal governments. As tribes gain greater political and economic clout on the world stage, expectations have risen regarding the need for greater government accountability in Indian country.

Despite these expectations, Indian tribes are largely immune from external accountability with respect to human rights. In fact, tribes have effectively slipped into a gap in the global system of human rights responsibility. The gap exists in the sense that tribal governments are not externally accountable in any broad sense for abuses of human rights that they commit.

The failure of the legal system to provide for tribal accountability for human rights produces serious harms for Indian tribes and their polities. In this Article, I argue that the conventional understanding of tribal sovereignty must be reformed to reflect the transformative international law principle that all sovereigns are externally accountable for human rights violations. I then offer a proposal based on tribal accountability and respect for tribal sovereignty. I propose that tribes develop an intertribal human rights regime that includes the formation of an intertribal treaty recognizing tribal human rights obligations and establishing an intertribal institution with the capacity to enforce human rights violations. An intertribal human rights regime offers the best possible method for providing external accountability for tribal abuses of human rights...

Resource Type
Citation

Singel, Wenona T. "Indian Tribes and Human Rights Accountability." MSU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 11-01. Michigan State University. 2012. Paper. (https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers2.cfm?abstract_id=2241017, accessed July 24, 2023)

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: With an Introduction for Indigenous Leaders in the United States

Year

On September 13, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, affirming that indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples and have the right to self-determination, along with an array of related rights, including rights to traditional lands and territories.. 

This paper presents the Declaration along with a comprehensive explanation and assessment of the implications of the Declaration for Native nations and leaders in the United States. 

Resource Type
Citation

Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program (University of Arizona). The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: With an Introduction for Indigenous Leaders in the United States. University of Arizona Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program. James E. Rogers College of Law, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. 2012. Paper. (http://unsr.jamesanaya.org/docs/data/UNDRIP-Handbook-USA.pdf, accessed January 13, 2014)

The situation of indigenous peoples in the United States of America

Author
Year

In this report, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples examines the human rights situation of indigenous peoples in the United States, on the basis of research and information gathered, including during a visit to the country from 23 April to 4 May 2012. During his mission, the Special Rapporteur held consultations with United States officials as well as with indigenous peoples, tribes, and nations in Washington, D.C., Arizona, Alaska, Oregon, Washington state; South Dakota and Oklahoma, both in Indian country and in urban areas. Appendices I and II to this report include, respectively, summaries of information provided by the Government and of information submitted by indigenous peoples, organizations and individuals in connection with the mission...

Resource Type
Citation

Anaya, James. "The situation of indigenous peoples in the United States of America." Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. Human Rights Council. General Assembly. United Nations. Geneva, Switzerland. August 30, 2012. Paper. (http://unsr.jamesanaya.org/docs/countries/2012-report-usa-a-hrc-21-47-add1_en.pdf, accessed February 13, 2024)