UN Report Highlights U.S. Racism

Contact: Alberto Saldamando

IITC General Counsel
Tel: (415) 641-4482
Email: alberto@treatycouncil.org

Consolidated Indigenous Shadow Report to United Nations Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination highlights Racism by United States

February 5, 2008 – The International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), in
coordination with the Western Shoshone Defense Project, submitted a
Consolidated Indigenous Shadow Report to the United Nations Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) on January 6th, 2008.  The
UNCERD is the “Treaty Monitoring Body” for the International Convention on
the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).  It monitors
compliance of the States (countries) which have ratified the Convention with
its provisions, including the United States (US).

Submissions from Indigenous Peoples, tribes, organizations and communities
from around the country were included in the report.  It highlights a range
of human rights violations and examples of racial discrimination reported by
Indigenous Peoples in the US.  These include the destruction of sacred
sites, threats to spiritual and cultural practices, environmental racism,
violence against Indigenous women, Homeland Security-promoted border and
immigration policies, Treaty rights violations, widespread discrimination in
education, health and prisoners’ rights.  Information was also included from
Indigenous Peoples in countries outside the US who are affected by US
policy. The report will be considered in the upcoming examination of the US
by the UNCERD in February in Geneva, Switzerland.

The UNCERD, during the review, will question US representatives on US
compliance with the Convention based on the US official report to the
Committee, called the Periodic Report. United Nations guidelines require
that governments consult with Non-Governmental Organizations in their
counties when they compile their Periodic Reports, but the US has generally
ignored this guideline.  The Consolidated Indigenous Report was submitted to
ensure that the voices of Indigenous Peoples would be heard during this

Alberto Saldamando, IITC General Counsel, who co-coordinated the development
of the report stated, “In compiling this report to the UNCERD, it was clear
that the institutionalization of racism and discrimination against Native
Peoples is ingrained at every level of US society.  The data and the many
inputs we received from Tribes, Native Peoples and individuals vividly
demonstrate that racial discrimination thrives in schools, universities,
prisons and in the so-called administration of justice in the US, at every
level of government and society at large.  Even in textbooks, Indigenous
Peoples in the US are reduced to caricatures with little humanity and even
fewer rights, particularly those rights recognized by the recently adopted
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We hope that the
government and people of the US are willing to correct the highly
disproportionate impact of discrimination and poverty on Native Peoples in
the US, in keeping with the UN Declaration.  The international arena is one
of the few spaces we have to denounce the racial discrimination directed
against us.  At some point it has to happen.”
Julie Fishel, Western Shoshone Defense Project and co-coordinator of report
stated, “We are extremely pleased with the completion of the Indigenous
Joint Shadow Report.  As we continue to move forward in this long struggle,
we are witnessing more and more native voices coming forth and standing to
be counted.  The Report reflects those voices and the commonality of the
struggles of the indigenous peoples of this Turtle Island.  The Committee on
the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has been a strong force in the
struggle of the Western Shoshone and other indigenous people.  With the
information contained in this Report, it is our hope to equip the Committee
with the information it needs to hold the United States and its multi
national corporations accountable to the rights of the first peoples and
respect for their traditional laws, lands and resources.”

In recent years the UNCERD has made very important decisions upholding
Indigenous Peoples’ Human Rights, in particular its General Recommendation
XIII which affirms Indigenous Peoples’ Free Prior Informed Consent in
matters affecting them, and calls upon States to uphold this right.  The
Western Shoshone Defense Project served as the co-coordinators with IITC for
the development of this Report, and has successfully used the ICERD “Early
Warning and Urgent Action procedures” to raise questions challenging the
legitimacy of the Indian Land Claims Commission process and the purported
“loss” of their ancestral lands in violation of the Treaty of Ruby Valley.
In 2006, the UNCERD issued a full Urgent Action decision stating in part
that the “Committee has received credible information alleging that the
Western Shoshone Indigenous Peoples are being denied their traditional
rights to land, and that the measures taken and even accelerated lately by
the State party in relation to the status, use and occupation of these lands
may cumulatively lead to irreparable harm to these communities.”

Carrie Dann, Western Shoshone Nation elder and spokesperson, stated
following the 2006 decision, “”We are very pleased with the UNCERD’s
decision against the United States.  Hopefully, the United States will begin
to address its poor history with the Indigenous Peoples and begin to act in
a more honest and good faith manner.  The struggle of the Western Shoshone
Nation is the struggle of all Indigenous Peoples.  It is not just about
abuse of power and economics – it is about the stripping away of our spirit.
The UNCERD decision confirms what the Western Shoshone and other Indigenous
Peoples have been saying for a very long time – it is a first step that we
can use in our ongoing work and in our corporate engagement and public
education strategies.  We also hope this decision and the Western Shoshone
struggle can be used to encourage and strengthen other peoples’ struggles to
protect their spirituality, the lands, resources and their rights as
Indigenous Peoples.”

The UNCERD has responded very positively to Indigenous Peoples’ recent
submissions regarding New Zealand and Canada as well.  Alberto Saldamando,
IITC General Counsel, and IITC Board member Lenny Foster (Dineh Nation) will
attend the UNCERD session in Geneva and present the Report. The Western
Shoshone and representatives from other Tribal Nations and organizations are
also planning to attend.  Indigenous Peoples around the country are eagerly
waiting for the UNCERD’s response to their submissions.

The UNCERD currently has one Indigenous expert member, Francisco Cali, Maya
Kaqchikel from Guatemala, who was just re-elected to another 4-year term by
the state (country) parties to the Convention at the UN General Assembly
session on January 17th.

The “Consolidated Indigenous Shadow Report to the UNCERD on the United
States” can be downloaded at www.treatycouncil.org.


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