Tuesday, May 8, 2012

‘Doctrine of Discovery’ Used for Centuries to Justify Seizure of Indigenous Land, Subjugate Peoples, Must Be Repudiated by United Nations

8 May 2012

Economic and
Social Council

Department of Public Information
News and Media Division • New York


KELOLAND.com | Sioux Falls News & Weather, South Dakota News & Weather, Minnesota and Iowa News
By Derek Olson | May 8, 2012

PINE RIDGE, SD - A United Nations fact-finder studying the lives of American Indians is releasing some of his findings. They include recommending the federal government return the Black Hills to tribes.

For many Native Americans in the Dakotas, the Black Hills are a touchy subject.

"It belongs to us, and this was reaffirmed in 1980 by the United States Supreme Court," Oglala Sioux Tribal President John Yellow Bird Steele said.

The 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty promised that the Black Hills would remain in tribal hands. But that was a promise broken once gold was discovered in the area.

"It isn't just a piece of paper. It isn't just a contract. It is something more spiritual that has us tied and connects us to this land," OST member Clarence Yellow Hawk Sr. said.

Yellow Hawk Sr. can relate to the treaty in a way not many other people can.

"My grandfather, Chief Yellow Hawk, was one of the signers of those treaties back in 1868," Yellow Hawk Sr. said.

"When you ratify a treaty by two-thirds of the Senate and it falls into the constitution of the United States, it's a law and it needs to be fully implemented," Yellow Bird Steele said.

It's an opinion shared by James Anaya, the fact-finder for the United Nations who will recommend that the federal government return the Black Hills to the tribes. His mission is part of the U.N.'s Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

"I want everyone to know of the document that the United Nations had passed and the United States accepted, of what those specific rights are so we can implement them," Yellow Bird Steele said.

"My grandfathers and fathers always told me that we will live poor. We will live under these conditions knowing that one day, our ancestors told us that, we will be getting the Black Hills back. And I believe that time is now," Yellow Hawk Sr. said.

An official report to the United Nations is expected by this September.
Speakers Call for Mechanism to Investigate Historical Land Claims; Also Holds Dialogue on Land Use and Participatory Mechanisms in Arctic

The Doctrine of Discovery had been used for centuries to expropriate indigenous lands and facilitate their transfer to colonizing or dominating nations, speakers in the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues stressed today, urging the expert body to study the creation of a special mechanism, under United Nations auspices, to investigate historical land claims.

Those forceful calls came amid continued debate on this year’s special theme:  the enduring impact of the Discovery Doctrine on indigenous peoples and the right to redress for past conquests covered under articles 28 and 37 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Throughout the day, representatives of indigenous groups, Governments and United Nations funds, agencies and programmes aired their views on the need to more justly reflect indigenous rights and freedoms in national constitutions and other comprehensive agreements.

Indigenous and native peoples spoke out against continued use of the internationally recognized principle of “terra nullius” — which describes land belonging to no one but that could, in some cases, be acquired through occupation — as well as anachronistic norms, like the Regalian Doctrine, under which private land title emanates from the Spanish crown.  Such principles were based on racist, unscientific assumptions, many said, and could not be used by States to justify the “theft” of native lands, territories or natural resources.

Others argued that the Discovery Doctrine — and its contemporary effect — should be studied by the Permanent Forum, as should indigenous legal systems to understand how they regarded its application.  The term “conquest” should not be used in a manner to suggest that conquest had occurred.  Echoing the comments of many, Steven Newcomb of the North American Caucus said the original free and independent existence of indigenous peoples — and their relationship with their territories — predated domination by western Christendom.  That free existence was the source of their birthright.

For their part, Government representatives described efforts to compensate indigenous peoples for past and present inequities.  Mexico’s delegate said electoral justice was one way to guarantee rights.  “With electoral justice, we redress social injustice”, he declared.  It was important to recognize customary law and respect the rights to self-determination and self-recognition.  Consultations were needed to understand whether elections should take place under ordinary systems, or in accordance with traditional systems.

>more: ‘Doctrine of Discovery’, Used for Centuries to Justify Seizure of Indigenous Land, Subjugate Peoples, Must Be Repudiated by United Nations, Permanent Forum Told

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (PDF)

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