“Obama’s Signing Declaration Just Another Trick”
President Obama’s move in signing the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is only another trick by the United States against Native American nations and the rest of the world. As a representative to the UN for the Sioux Nation Treaty Council since 1999 and the debates on the Declaration since 2002, my information is first hand and not rumors or conjecture. The Sioux Nation Treaty Council was involved in the development of the Declaration beginning in 1984 when the need for a Declaration specifically for Indigenous Peoples was recognized by the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP) in Geneva, Switzerland. The late Tony Black Feather and Garfield Grass Rope were present at all of those meetings. The original text of the Declaration was the result of two decades of deliberation with the WGIP and many Indigenous peoples from throughout the world. UN representatives also came here to meet with Sioux people in South Dakota. The Original Text, also called the Sub-commission Text, was approved by the WGIP and later approved by the UN Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities in 1994. However, also in 1994, the Sub-commission Text was reassigned to the Working Group on the Draft Declaration (WGDD) rather than being presented for approval to the Commission on Human Rights. This move was pushed by the United States and the other English speaking States. Although more than a decade of work on the Declaration was completed at that time, the USA wanted more debates trying to stall the passage of the Original Text.
Debates were held in Geneva, Switzerland, for another ten years, until in 2004, the Chairperson-Rapporteur Louis Enrique Chavez announced his intentions to present his own Chairperson’s Text to the Commission on Human Rights for passage. On Nov. 29, 2004, in order to preserve the Original Text that was approved by the majority of Indigenous Peoples from throughout the world, six Indigenous representatives participated in a Hunger Strike-Prayer Fast during that session in Geneva. The Author was one of those representatives who was a participant in the Hunger Strike-Prayer Fast and was privy to the negotiations that were concluded. In the final agreement with the Indigenous representatives to end the Hunger Strike-Prayer Fast, the Vice-Chairperson and other representatives of the Commission on Human Rights agreed that if there was no consensus in the debates, then the only Declaration that would be presented to the Commission on Human Rights would be the Original Sub-commission Text. Once again, backdoor manipulations led by the USA occurred between Nov. 2004 and June 29, 2006, and the UN Commission on Human Rights was abolished with the establishment of a new UN Human Rights Council. The Declaration approved by the new UN Human Rights Council was the one written by the WGDD Chairperson Chavez. This Chairperson’s Declaration was not approved at the debates and did not have the approval of the majority of Indigenous Peoples contrary to statements that have been made by other Indigenous organizations. A typical curtain of divide and conquer is being presented to the world.
One of the American diplomats during the years of debates told this author that the war in Iraq was part of the reason the Original Text would never be approved. She said the USA promised the Kurds their own freedom if they would help the USA in the war against Saddam Hussein. You know the rest of the story. This “new” Declaration is so watered down that it was inevitable that the USA would pass it after waiting for a time for most people to give their support to the “new” Declaration and think they have won a victory. And so the usual deceitful practices against Indigenous nations, read as Native American nations including the Great Sioux Nation, continue to this day. The only difference is that now we read and understand the English language, are able to debate, and ultimately tell the rest of the story…if we are lucky.
Charmaine White Face, Zumila Wobaga, (63) is Oglala Tetuwan Oceti Sakowin (Oglala Lakota from the Great Sioux Nation). She is the Spokesperson for the Sioux Nation Treaty Council and the author of An Analysis of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org