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HomeCommentary & EssaysThe Significance of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The Significance of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The Significance of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

From Shawn Mulford.

Indigenous Elders and Medicine Peoples Council Statement – April 27, 2012

 

A Conference and Consultation with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on
the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

“The Creator gave the Aboriginal Indigenous Nations of the People Laws to follow and
responsibilities to care for all Creation. These instructions have been passed down from
generation to generation from the beginning of Creation. It is the Law that no one can
overpower the Creator’s Law, you are a part of Creation, thus if you break the Law, you
are destroying yourself.
We speak on behalf of all Creation: the four legged/those that swim/those that
crawl/those that fly/those that burrow in the Earth/the plant and tree Nations. This one
life system includes the elements of fire, water, earth and air, the living environment of
“Mother Earth”.
The Sanctity of the Creator’s Law has been broken. The balance of life has been
disrupted. You come into life as a sacred being. If you abuse the sacredness of your life
then you affect all Creation. The future of all life is now in jeopardy. We have now
reached the crossroads. As Aboriginal Indigenous People we ask you to work with us to
save the future of all Creation.”
The Creator created the Aboriginal Indigenous Peoples into the Land at the beginning of
Creation and also created into the Peoples the Natural Law. We have followed this
Natural law since the very beginning, passing it down through each generation to ensure
the survival of all life.
As the Original Stewards of this Land we have the responsibility to follow and uphold the
Natural Law. In order to uphold this responsibility we must be free to speak and act on
behalf of our relatives who are not easily understood by those who are new to this land
and who have little respect for the Natural Laws of this Land. The newcomers have
demonstrated their lack of respect for the Natural Law time and again throughout the
history of the United States of America, beginning with the abandonment of their own
laws and homelands and the creation of new man-made laws that have been designed to
serve destructive purposes upon our homelands. The lack of respect and abusive actions
that the United States has continually demonstrated in opposition to Natural Law is both
offensive and utterly destructive, not only to our Peoples  and way of life, but to all
Creation.
Since their arrival on our lands, the newcomers have shown very little respect towards
our obligation to adhere to the Natural Law of the Creator. Instead of mutual respect there
is simply an expectation that we will respect the man-made laws that have been forced
upon us. In this way, we find that we are discriminated against, by consistently being
required to respond in black and white with  a language that is not our own and which
does not convey the full depth of our concerns. Our Indigenous ways of decision-making
and speaking are often not accommodated and our ways of interaction are not honored or
recognized.
It is our inherent right to follow the Natural Law. And, it is our right to adhere to our
obligations under that Law which extend beyond man-made domestic and international
law. The government of the United States is also obligated. They are obligated to
acknowledge our right to govern ourselves and our lands.
Domestic and International law requires the United States Government to acknowledge
the Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination. This includes the right to live on our
lands with unrestricted access to our waters and natural areas without fear of
contamination or the threat of having our rights restricted or taken away.
In addition, the United States Government is obligated to acknowledge the right of
Indigenous Peoples to maintain and protect their “religious and cultural practices.” Based
on these legal precepts, our sacred holdings such as Eagle feathers are improperly placed
under man-made law. Those who properly maintain and care for these sacred holdings, in
accordance with our sacred teachings, are the ones to determine how they are to be used.
These sacred holdings are governed by the Creator’s Law. Yet, the United States
Government presumes to control our ceremonies by dictating how and when we can use
our sacred holdings, creating man-made laws that govern the use of our sacred holdings
and our ceremonial way of life, in direct violation of our rights as Indigenous Peoples.
These attempts to disrupt our way of life by dishonoring and disrespecting the Natural
Law have consequences. The United States and the international community are
experiencing these consequences today. They are being felt in the increased severity and
frequency of natural disasters that have been brought about by their activities and they are
being reflected in the deterioration of the social and moral standards. The need for manmade laws to be realigned with the Natural Law is urgent. This can only be accomplished if the Natural Law of the Creator, the Law held sacred by Indigenous Peoples, is included in real and meaningful ways. If the United States and International Legal Community
does not address their destruction of the natural world and the Social Injustices that result
from this destruction, immediately and urgently, by realigning their values and all future
actions with the Natural Law, then we see newly emerging threats on the horizon, threats
that pose an immediate danger to our survival as human beings.
As the sole authority on our way of life we must be included in all planning and decision
making that affects our way of life and the ability of the natural world to sustain life upon
this planet. In regard to the legal consultation requirements set forth under domestic and
international law, the United States of America is required to engage in meaningful
consultation and to attain the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous Peoples
before making any decisions that might impact them, their lands or their way of life.
However, even with these laws in place, there has been very little meaningful face-toface open dialogue with Indigenous Peoples. When consultation does occur the peoples whose interests and way of life will be most impacted are often disregarded or ignored, while the plans of the United States Government move forward unaltered. Consultation often results in discussions with a few individuals, generally it is with those individuals who will somehow benefit from the decisions that the United States is making. This has
endangered our water and subsistence rights and lead to the destructive extraction of our
minerals, the introduction of invasive species and numerous pollutants that have
contaminated our environment, damaged our way of life and threatened our sacred
places. The United States Government has violated our rights and disrupted our way of
life, by allowing a few individuals to illegally provide consent on our behalf. Therefore,
the United States Government and those individuals, who have participated in the
elimination of our rights, by illegally providing consent, must be held accountable for the
destruction of our lands, waters and our way of life.
True consultation requires those with decision-making authority to come to us formally
and to sit with us face-to-face, to initiate a true dialogue and proceed honorably with
consensus, so that we can establish the type of working relationship that is necessary to
address the critical environmental issues that all living beings currently face.
We recommend that as a first step towards justice and reconciliation, the International
Community conduct an independent investigation into all past and current human rights
violations, environmental violations and the violation of  any and all treaty rights and
agreements. We also request that you thoroughly investigate all discriminatory practices
and failures related to reaching acceptable standards of consultation, under both domestic
and international law. The findings from this independent investigation should be made
public and must include participation from Aboriginal Indigenous Nations and people.
Recommendations and plans to restore past damage and to prevent future harms to the
Indigenous Peoples, our way of life and the natural world should be outlined in legally
binding agreements that have clear enforcement mechanisms in place.
Today, there are no mechanisms within the laws of the United States that offer any real
protections for our sacred places, the natural world or our way of life. The United States
must be held responsible for all activities and actions that it has allowed or undertaken
that have damaged, destroyed and desecrated our sacred places and the natural world that
we rely upon for our survival. Real enforcement mechanisms must be created. Legal
authority without enforcement is meaningless.
We are now in the state of survival and we must begin to sacrifice in order to provide a
future for our coming generations. We must adhere to the Natural Law. We cannot
continue to damage, desecrate  or destroy parts of the natural system and expect what
remains to live unaffected. We ask that you work with us to save the future of all
Creation and to uphold, respect and honor the Natural Law.
We respectfully ask that all Nation States and human beings around the world use the
Natural Law, provided by the Creator, as a guiding light and foundation for all decision
making, from this point forward. We ask you to stand with us to protect sacred places
such as San Francisco Peaks, the Black  Hills, Mount Graham,  Greasy Mountain also
known as South Mountain, Bear Butte, Black Mesa, Bdote and Medicine Lake, and all
other threatened sacred places here and around the world.
We have been asked to carry sacred responsibilities for our people, to provide a future for
the coming generations. This responsibility includes the protection of all life. We are
from various Nations and we are spiritually related. We will not be divided by any
terminology that defines us as “recognized” or “unrecognized”, by the Government of the
United States or any other  body. We are recognized by the Creator and we are united
under the Creator’s Law, as United Aboriginal Indigenous Nations, with a sacred
covenant to protect and extend Life for all future generations.

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