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Twelfth Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Twelfth Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

The Doctrine of Discovery and its Repudiation Hosting Agencies/Organizations: United Methodists

The United Methodist Office for the United Nations and the Native American International Caucus of the United Methodist Church sponsored a brilliant seminar on what is known as the “the Doctrine of Discovery” and its influence throughout history. The opening speaker, Dr. Richard Grounds, explained that the Doctrine of discovery dates back to colonial era, when laws such as Papal Bulls were used to justify the enslavement of indigenous people and the conquering of their land. Embedded in these original laws is the Doctrine of Discovery. Dr. Grounds provided a chilling account of the logic behind this doctrine. Under this doctrine, those who discover new land are justified in taking it, simply because they discovered it. Colonialists disregarded classified indigenous peoples as occupying, rather than owning newly “discovered land.”

The speakers following Dr. Grounds illustrated ongoing impacts of the Doctrine of Discovery on indigenous people throughout the international community. Sarah Augustine described how the Doctrine of Discovery mindset is responsible for continued contamination and assault of indigenous peoples land. Toxic waste facilities contaminate the land of the Yakama people. Brazil’s recent 303 Decree exiles indigenous people from their native land for the purposes of development. She ended with a statement of hope, calling for communal action, grassroots empowerment, and divestment when necessary. Following Ms. Augustine,  Rev. Fr. Rex RB. Reyes described the prevalence of the Doctrine of Discovery in the Philippines. As he explained, mountain mining was established in the country by the United States who at the time believed that God had ordained the United States to do so. Rev. Reyes described how this mindset is still pervasive throughout the country and has ultimately contributed to the murder of over 100 indigenous peoples in recent years.

The three speakers on the panel, along with the various actors who worked to organize the seminar, created both an informative and inspirational presentation. The seminar perfectly illustrated the shocking reality of the Doctrine of Discovery. The audience walked away both educated and motivated to act against the Doctrine of Discovery’s influence in the twenty-first century.

Training: Indigenous peoples and the Special Procedures dealing with human rights violations Hosting Agencies/Organizations: UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Indigenous Population, doCip

This unique event provided information about Special Rapporteurs and how to work with them. The first half of the event was an informational/training presentation, lead by advocate Shanker Limbu, with the United Law Associates for human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples. As Limbu explained, Special Rapporteurs are established by the UN Charter. They enter into states to record cases of human rights violations and provide recommendations to states for addressing these violations. Limbu provided not only an overview of Special Rapporteurs roll, but also information about how to work with them. He talked about how to most effectively report  cases of human rights violations to Special Rapporteurs. For example, it is important to concisely identifying the whos, whats, and wheres of the story. The second half of the event was opened to questions and commentary by the participants. Indigenous individuals from regions across the world provided stories of human rights violations within their communities and asked questions relevant to their particular situations.

This event was unique because it aimed to equip participants with tools that they would use following the event. Most of the participants were indigenous peoples, and so they were learning about something directly impacting their lives. They wanted to know how to work with Special Rapporteurs because they were planning on doing just that. As a result, the event had a clear sense of purpose and the participants were actively engaged.

Launch of Adolescent Friendly Version of the UN Declaration of Indigenous Peoples Hosting Agencies/Organizations: UNICEF and partners

This launching had an interesting panel set up. The majority of the launching was similar to a talk show. The host, a youth representative of UNICEF, asked questions, and the panels, all youth leaders of Indigenous youth groups throughout the world, all provided personal answers. The speakers really opened up, providing stories and personal accounts of Indigenous rights violations within their country, their own aspirations, and the tools they intend to use to continue moving their efforts forward.

All agreed that the adolescent friendly version of the UN Decleration of Indigenous People was a great informational outreach tool. They praised the visual format of the packet and the accessible organization, encouraging the creators of the packet to translate it into  as many languages as possible.  They further suggested that this pamphlet be distributed in schools and youth groups throughout the international community.

Title of event attended: Working Together for Human Rights: Indigenous Peoples Responding to HIV/AIDS and Sexual Health

Hosting Agencies/Organizations: Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN), Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN) and International Indigenous HIV/AIDS Working Group (IIWGHA)

Today Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU_UNO) staff member attended a seminar hosted by the Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN), Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN) and International Indigenous HIV/AIDS Working Group (IIWGHA) that discussed the importance of addressing issues specific to indigenous peoples surrounding HIV, AIDS and sexual health. Panelists explained that native populations have higher rates of HIV transmission in than the larger population, specifically in Canada. Additionally in native populations, the majority of new infections annually are drug-use related and a much higher percentage of cases are in women than the larger Canadian population. However, the majority of information on this issue is addressed to homosexual males. Panelists emphasized the need for direct mindfulness of native peoples in HIV and AIDS research as well as the importance of culturally appropriate information. In addition to these topics, the NYSHN and the CAAN address wider issues surrounding HIV/ AIDS, such as trauma, sexual assault, and self-esteem issues, and the need to combat the stigma, discrimination and criminalization of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.

Speakers included:

Erin Konsmo, Native Youth Sexual Health Network

Sarah Herne, ACT NOW Akwesasne

Ken Clement, Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network

Trevor Stratton, IIWGHA coordinator

Elisa Canqui, IIWGHA leader Bolivia

William Morales, IIWGHA leader Chile

Title of event attended: The Doctrine of Discovery and its Repudiation

Hosting Agencies/Organizations: United Methodists

            The United Methodist Office for the United Nations and the Native American International Caucus of the United Methodist Church sponsored a brilliant seminar on what is known as the “the Doctrine of Discovery” and its influence throughout history. The opening speaker, Dr. Richard Grounds, explained that the Doctrine of discovery dates back to colonial era, when laws such as Papal Bulls were used to justify the enslavement of indigenous people and the conquering of their land. Embedded in these original laws is the Doctrine of Discovery. Dr. Grounds provided a chilling account of the logic behind this doctrine. Under this doctrine, those who discover new land are justified in taking it, simply because they discovered it. Colonialists disregarded classified indigenous peoples as occupying, rather than owning newly “discovered land.”

The speakers following Dr. Grounds illustrated ongoing impacts of the Doctrine of Discovery on indigenous people throughout the international community. Sarah Augustine described how the Doctrine of Discovery mindset is responsible for continued contamination and assault of indigenous peoples land. Toxic waste facilities contaminate the land of the Yakama people. Brazil’s recent 303 Decree exiles indigenous people from their native land for the purposes of development. She ended with a statement of hope, calling for communal action, grassroots empowerment, and divestment when necessary. Following Ms. Augustine,  Rev. Fr. Rex RB. Reyes described the prevalence of the Doctrine of Discovery in the Philippines. As he explained, mountain mining was established in the country by the United States who at the time believed that God had ordained the United States to do so. Rev. Reyes described how this mindset is still pervasive throughout the country and has ultimately contributed to the murder of over 100 indigenous people in recent years.

The three speakers on the panel, along with the various actors who worked to organize the seminar, created both an informative and inspirational presentation. The seminar perfectly illustrated the shocking reality of the Doctrine of Discovery. The audience walked away both educated and motivated to act against the Doctrine of Discovery’s influence in the twenty-first century.

Title of event attended: Education and Indigenous Youth

Hosting Agencies/Organizations: Ecuador and Australia

Many of the panelists and most of the audience commentors were indigenous women in locales which spoke Spanish. They spoke about the hardships indigenous people face in trying to preserve their cultures while still becoming educated enough to be stable in the modern world. Many of the panelists talked about the additional barriers to education they face as indigenous women.

I met Rick Chavolla while waiting for the panel to begin, who has lived in the American Indian Community House here in NYC and will be a very good resource for the Spring Seminar this year.

Title of event attended: Woman is the First Environment

Hosting Agencies/Organizations: Native Youth Sexual Health Network, International Indian Treaty Council, International Indigenous Women’s Environmental and Reproductive Health Initiative, FIMI

This seminar was amazing!!! It was fascinating to hear how their were connections between degradation of the environment through research extraction near reservations were accompanied by increased incidences of sexual and domestic abuse to the women and young girls. Also, many girls are forced into the sex trade after extraction industries have left the community severely impoverished. The women are using the idea that mother earth is like our bodies, and the destruction and mistreatment of them are not acceptable. Additionally, panelists discussed how their communities’ reproductive health is being severely damaged by chemical pollution including form pesticide sprays and resource extraction methods. For example, women are having “jelly babies” due to persistent pesticides which are illegal to use in the U.S. but U.S. companies still export these lethal chemicals.

All of the speakers on the panel were amazing; I’d recommend every single one of them for the Spring Seminar, but especially Danika Littlechild who was a good speaker, knew a lot of solid facts as well as anecdotes surrounding these issues, and is an attourney for indigenous peoples. I also sat next to a woman who might be a useful research although I’m not sure what for. Gina Cosentino is the director of the Indigenous and Communal Conservation part of The Nature Conservancy and is currently looking to start a collaboration with other conservation NGOs to address environmental violence and I think parallel abuse against women, but I could be remembering that part incorrectly.

Title of event attended: Indigenous Women in the Americas: how to analyse multiple discriminations

Hosting Agencies/Organizations: Femmes Autochtones du Quebec/ Quebec Native Women

This event was about studies that indigenous women have been implementing in their communities in South America. The studies were to research discrimination against indigenous women, with special attention to finding emblematic cases which would rally more of the community behind their efforts and raise awareness to discrimination against indigenous women.One of the points of the panelists which I thought was especially interesting was that when women were abused, not only is the woman affected, but the whole community suffers. Similarly, the women stressed the need for both individual and collective human rights which I thought was an interesting distinction as well.

Title of event attended: Our Food is Our Life

Location: NLB Conference Room 7

Date: May 24, 2013

Hosting Agencies/Organizations: International Treaty Organization

This panel was also one of my favorites (although no panel will beat Wednesday night’s). It was chaired by the same woman who I thought set an excellent tone for the whole discussion. I also liked the stress she put on the panel truly being a discussion,  not lecture. The panelists talked of the importance of food sovereignty in their communities, not just food security. Indigenous peoples’ food is sacred to them, so lack of or changing of their food is devastating to their cultures. For example, almost all indigenous peoples’ cultures, as part of their creation story, it is believed that the indigenous people have a little piece of their traditional food in them, so by destroying the food, the people are also destroyed. Furthermore, it’s becoming increasingly important for indigenous peoples to pass down their food traditions as usually, the older traditions of growing food are more resistant to severe weather conditions, which is important with global climate change.

Title of event attended: Valuing Traditional Knowledge: Showing Intercultural Perspectives from the MDG Experience

Location: NLB Conference Room 6

Date: May 28, 2013

Hosting Agencies/Organizations: PAHO/WHO, Permanent Missions of Ecuador and Panama to the UN, MDG Fund

This panel was about the inclusion of multi-cultural approaches to the Millenium Development Goals with countries in South America as examples. Mainly, speakers focused on the inclusion of indigenous people’s cultural knowledge as needing to be included in MDG goals and methods for two reasons. 1- even if there is modern, more effective way of doing things, that method may not be the most effective for indigenous people. 2- indigenous people’s traditional knowledge may be helpful to non-indigenous peoples. For example, the traditional knowledge passed down from generation to generation of how to predict a tsunami is coming.

Title of event attended: Preserving Indigenous Language and Culture

Location: DC2 UNEP Conference Room 8th floor

Date: May 30, 2013

Hosting Agencies/Organizations: International Federation of Social Workers, NGO Committee on UN International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

This panel discussion was about how challenging it is for indigenous people  to preserve their cultures and languages in the modern world. Each panelist spoke of how she was working to preserve her own indigenous culture. What I thought was especially interesting about this panel was that each panelist was from a different part of the world; it wasn’t just  indigenous peoples of the Americas. Winsome Nenewa is from Papa New Guinea, Smita Ekka Dewan is from India, and Hilary Weaver is from upstate New York.  What I thought was particularly interesting about Hilary Weaver was that she is living with  and has adopted the culture of a different tribe than what she was born in to in order to preserve her indigenous lifestyle where she lives currently in Buffalo. I got her card and I think she would be interested in speaking at the seminar and it appears to me that she could speak on a variety of topics, not just this one. Also, she would especially like to speak at the seminar if she could bring her two children to participate.

Our Food is Our Knowledge

May 24, 2013- 1:15-2:30

Hosted by International Indian Treaty Council

Key Ideas

·         Traditional seeds = traditional knowledge

One of the topics that continued to be referenced throughout the panel was the international indigenous conference on corn, where indigenous peoples from all over the world to whom corn is very important to their cultures. Where, among other things, participants shared seeds so that traditional strains of corn will not be lost. Also, some communities which have lost their strains of traditional corn could re-obtain these seeds so that their next crop would be closer to traditional crops of the past. One of the purposes for using older strains of corn is that some of the older strains were more resistant to droughts so as climate change is resulting in some areas getting less water than usual, the indigenous communities living there will still be able to raise crops of corn. Additionally, attendees shared knowledge around growing farm including knowledge of the best times to plant, predicting weather, and then furthermore using this knowledge to determine what strains of corn would best grow that season. All 45 indigenous peoples who attended the conference took on the responsibility to protect what’s sacred to them (corn) against attacks by Monsanto. They agreed that the right to food is not only an individual right but a collective right.

Myrna of Nicaragua, the first panelist, is working to change the focus from food security and food sovereignty for many reasons. Food sovereignty is a part of self-declaration, and thus an important issue under the UN Declaration of Rights for Indigenous Peoples. First, the whole process surrounding food, not just consumption, is important to indigenous cultures so it’s not much help to simply ensure that indigenous peoples have food; indigenous peoples need to be able to raise their food as well. This is the idea of food sovereignty- of controlling the whole process surrounding the food a society consumes. One way of securing food sovereignty is through food festivals and such, like the corn conference in Mexico this past fall. Myrna had three suggestions for ways to strengthen food sovereignty: 1- encourage intergenerational dialogue so that children are taught the traditional ways, 2- agencies and research centers of the UN support networks which work towards seed sovereignty, and 3- agencies moving from prioritizing more than just production for market purposes.

Next, this panelist addressed the issue of GMO seeds, which was also addressed in the introduction of the panel. In the introduction, it was pointed out that many indigenous cultures are considered the “people of the corn”, fish, etc. because their creator created them with a piece of this food in them. Thus, when this food is modified through genetic science etc., it is messing with an integral part of their spiritual culture. In Puerto Rico, where food security instead of food sovereignty was stressed so that there is enough food in the markets, but unbeknownst to the indigenous peoples, 80-90% of the foods are imported GMOs. Monsanto is conducting experiments regarding GMOs near indigenous peoples and the effects of the different experiments are unknown, but that does not at all mean they are negligent. Monsanto is allowed to conduct these experiments because it’s supported by the national government. Also, the creation of “terminating seeds” by Monsanto means that the seeds can’t create life, a spiritual necessity in many indigenous cultures. Another violation of corn as a spiritual organism is the growth of corn for agro-fuel where it is just burned instead of being spiritual fuel.

Another issue this panelist addressed is the break in generations where now there is two generations of indigenous peoples who have not had to cultivate land in order to eat. Cultivation was the way indigenous peoples connected to the land, so now that there is no cultivation, the connection to the land is also lost. The indigenous peoples are trying to reclaim their connection with the land by promoting organic agriculture, otherwise future generations won’t be connected spiritually to Mother Earth.

The second panelist was Donika Littlechild, an indigenous attorney from Canada. She said that indigenous peoples’ rights in Canada are largely ignored. One manner in which they do this is the annihilation of traditional foods in order to extract oil and gas. For example, there are no traditional foods to gather because of the leaks of herbicides, oil, and gas. Another way indigenous people are deprived of their traditional foods is through extreme poverty; indigenous people are impoverished to the point where they cannot afford their traditional foods, only the more cheap “junk” foods like chips, frozen meals, and fast food.

The last panelist was Vanga who talked about a dialogue between researchers and indigenous peoples so as to combine both sciences. One example of this is a honey network with hunter and gatherers, where communities are documenting their knowledge. Community’s documentation can also be used to document the different varieties which are resistant to extreme weather conditions. This panelist also mentioned the Tierra Madre conference where they will recognize food sovereignty zones which will be GMO and pesticide-free so as to preserve the indigenous peoples’ food culture.

After the panelists were finished speaking, Nick from First Peoples Worldwide was called on to speak. The organization he is working with is giving grants to community-based, culturally appropriate development projects which will support indigenous food systems. Also, it’s important to share any knowledge from generation to generation in anyway the elders are comfortable doing. For example, if they do not want to write their methods for predicting the weather down to be distributed publicly, they still might be willing to verbally share their methods with the younger generation of their community.

Title of event attended: Breaking the Silence on Violence against Indigenous Girls, Adolescents and Young Women

Location: UNICEF House

Date: May 28th, 2013 Hosting Agencies/Organizations: International Labor Organization, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women, SRSG on Violence Against Children

This event was the launch of a new report, “Breaking the Silence on Violence against Indigenous Girls, Adolescents and Young Women.” Many panelists commented on the report and what the report meant in relation to indigenous issues. The overall consensus of the meeting seemed to be that there were a few major concerns to address. First, there is a large absence of data regarding the well-being and safety of all indigenous people, especially young women and girls. Also, emphasis in the effort to mitigate this type of violence needs to be placed on the prevention of violence before it happens, instead of dealing with the repercussions of the violence afterwards. There needs to be more awareness of the huge vulnerability of young indigenous women, as a lot of the time their situations are located in a cross section of poverty and being indigenous, female and young, which makes them subject to all kinds of discrimination and abuse. There was an interesting array of panelists who commented on the report, from the head of UN Women to an indigenous Mexican young woman who told part of her own story. Truly, I hadn’t thought about the unique problems facing indigenous girls before this panel discussion.

Title of event attended: International Indigenous Peoples Workshop on Aid and Development Effectiveness

Location: NLB CR7

Date: Wednesday, May 22nd

Hosting Agencies/Organizations: Cordillera Peoples Alliance

The first speaker discussed the Civil Society Organization (CSO) Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE) conference.  She gave an overview of the objectives and conference statement.  Much was learned at the conference and the topics and discussion continue to empower attendees and their communities.  The next speaker spoke about personal History shows government commandeering land and trying to buy and sell resources of Indigenous Peoples.  Now we see governments requesting that Indigenous Peoples follow the protocol to receive their needs.  Aid effectiveness is ensuring aid helps developing to improve welfare.  Aid does not always reach the communities it is meant to.  Donor and national needs are different and money for Indigenous Peoples is not being used or not being used for Indigenous Peoples.  Action can be taken such as campaigning for space for the IP to share their voices.  Discuss the national priorities with the government sharing the realities of discrimination both socially and systematically.  Accountability and working to realign with national priorities is further complicated as this plan proves move effective in democratic/transparent governments.  If Indigenous Peoples are not legally recognized, invisible to national priorities, what is being done with the aid money allotted?  Make issues known! Indigenous Peoples are overrepresented in the “poor”, literacy is down, marginalized, land taken to develop country further impoverishing IP). Conquer invisibility socially and systematically.  Get Indigenous Peoples on Post 2015 agenda.  Although Indigenous Peoples are not CSOs, they must be engaged to ensure their voice is heard.

Title of event attended: Post 2015 and Indigenous Peoples from Latin America and Caribbean: Participation in the Guadalajara Regional Consultations and Other Perspectives Location: NLB Date: Thursday, May 23 Hosting Agencies/Organizations: Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations Indigenous rights must stay on the agenda!  There is money budgeted, but there is not clarity on exactly where it is going.  There should be more sensitivity and awareness around inviting participation as a representative for inequality forum.  If this is the only forum in which Indigenous Peoples are invited to participate - can we see the issue here? Stop treating Indigenous Peoples as vulnerable, consider individual human rights and collective (IP Women and all IP), respect use of tradition, and be inclusive.  Mexico took time specifically for Indigenous Peoples.  Through consultation and addressing concerns, Indigenous Peoples were recognized, included, and all parties got good recommendations for continuing work.  Online forums work very well, but also consider those coming from oral traditions and how to include those voices and see value in those interactions.  How do we see the world in 2030?  A young woman from Peru spoke on behalf of youth.  She was passionate in her words and was a fantastic speaker.  She invited us to see that across cultures and generations we share struggles and achievements; this is empowering.  She put emphasis on intercultural education for example in health (medicine, sexual health, and health services).  She was honest when she spoke of achieving goals and the need for financial support to for resources, visibility, and to fund a team who will actually implement those goals.  Youth are vulnerable as their needs are far from national needs.  Support is necessary as we are the future.  Another panelist stated areas of focus for deep reflection: territory, government (atonomy), harmony with nature, element of implementation, and redesign state including perspectives of Indigenous Peoples.  “We are not poor, we have been made poor by the system,” he said. There is much importance to incorporating opinions and perspectives.  Recommendations should be materialized and this may be possible through horizontal thinking (include climate to end hunger).  The Post 2015 goals cannot be an agenda only for the poor countries.  We can only accomplish the goals if we fight with unified agenda.

Title of event attended: Indigenous Peoples in Africa: Developments, Challenges & Opportunities - Launching IWIGA’s yearbook Location: Trusteeship Council Date: May 24 Hosting Agencies/Organizations: international Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGA)

We heard testimony from Tanzania that there is intimidation, unlawful persecution, and cattle taking as well as evidence of killing and kidnapping.  Government implemented, corporation sponsored stealing and displacement of Indigenous Peoples.  Despite the Wildlife Act there has been hunting of animals, evictions of Indigenous Peoples, and building where the government says there can be none of this.  This is disturbing to Indigenous Peoples not only on a mental and physical level, but also on spiritual and identity levels.  Without livestock the entire community is impoverished effecting not only food and financial resources, but children are unable to attend school as they are unable to pay school fees; a panelist stated, “I can survive because I went to school”.  One panelist talked about livestock being intricately connecting to “our being, without livestock we are not Messiah”.   Taking this to court is costly and the chance of winning is slim.  There is little hope when discussing access to justice when working with an unjust government.  One recommendation is that there is psychological/psychosocial counseling for those who's lands and resources have been stripped from them by the local government.  Can we pressure governments by engaging other governments in this Human Rights issue?  Can we contact the International Criminal Court?  A panelists response reminded participants to also consider the role of the companies.  The companies are calling the governments to make these evictions.  There were also suggestions to utilize media to mobilize communities, campaign, and work to effect votes.

Title: Whose Territory?

Location: The FF building on 45th street.

Date: 5/22/13

Hosting Organization: International Land Coalition

The International Land Coalition (ILC) hosted an event discussing the issues facing indigenous peoples in terms of land, territories, natural resources, and other related items. The NGO advocates every community having the right to their own land, embracing all land types, as they provide information that corresponds with the workings of indigenous peoples to secure their rights.

The first speaker, Birgitte Feiring, addressed a research synthesis paper that was published by the ILC.  It evaluted the precedent of human rights established under the UN in terms of land ownerships, and then evaluated the effectiveness of Africa, Latin America, and Asia at maintaining these rights through their legal structures. She discussed the profound impact that women have on indigenous communities, because of their key role in food production and culture. Therefore, the double marginalization has a profound impact on indigenous populations. The last portion of her speech involved an analysis of how the ILC has aided indigenous peoples, in which the report found that it had underutilized potential.

The next speaker, Devasish Roy, built on Feiring’s explanation of international laws by discussing the various means of negotiation between indigenous peoples and the remainder of the population over land. He emphasized the barriers indigenous peoples face when using the system of law because of lack of resources and finances, while also not being oriented in cultural organizations that revolve around land titles, which most property laws are based on.

The next two speakers focused on more specific issues pertaining to certain indigenous peoples. Peter Kiplangat Cheruyot discussed the hardships the indigenous Ogjek tribe faced in Kenya. The Ogjeks were excluded from the national distribution in the 1930’s, and face tremendous obstacles due to ethnic discrimination.  Lola García-Alix also discussed the plight of indigenous peoples in Guyana.

Title of event attended: Indigenous International Repatriation: Returning Ancestral Remains

Location:  United States Mission to the United Nations

Date: 5/24/13

Hosting Agencies/Organizations: United States Mission to the United Nations, Australian Government, Association on American Indian Affairs, Chickasaw Nation, and Smithsonian Institution

The event entitled Returning Ancestral Remains Home discussed the importance of repatriation towards indigenous peoples. The act of repatriation involves sending the ancestral remains of indigenous peoples back to their original land and homes. However, this area of indigenous rights has faced several barriers, as most countries do not have policies outlining the proper protocol regarding repatriation, despite international law stating the imperative for states to properly return ancestral remains and ceremonial objects, few countries seem to have implemented policies, and continue to hold onto objects originating from indigenous in museums and similar entities.

The first speaker, Honor Keeler, who is from the Cherokee nation, and who resides on the Association on American Indian Affairs, the International Repatriation Project and chairs the Working Group on International Repatriation, outlined the lack of progress made on repartition, considering  corresponding international law that has not been addressed, and policies in the United States that seem to advocate repatriation. The second speaker, the Australian Ambassador to the United States Kim Beazley, discussed repatriation policies in Australia that also advocate repatriation towards indigenous peoples in Australia. The third speaker, Neil Carter who is Gooniyandi and Kidji and is a member of the Advisory Committee for Indigenous Repatriation, discussed repatriation on a personal level. He emphasized the cultural tie between the body and the land that exists in several indigenous peoples’ cultures, including his own. He claimed that when the body is removed from its native land the “spirit is disturbed” until it is returned.  He discussed at length the personal hurt he felt that the remains of his people were not being respected.

Another member of the Advisory Committee for Indigenous Repatriation, Phil Gordon discussed the relationship between museums and indigenous peoples who attempted to receive repatriation. He explained how this relationship was poor at first, as the United States did not yet have positive steps for engaging in repatriation, but eventually developed into being somewhat supportive of repatriation, which aided the relationship become more positive. However, he noted that communities’ still face barriers in reaching out to museums and finding ancestral remains, and that these repatriation policies are beneficial because they allow museums to interact with indigenous peoples.

The next section was followed up by speakers representing the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), which is part of the Smithsonian institute. The first speaker, Jacquetta Swift is Comanche and Ft. Sill Apache, and is the Repatriation Manager of the NMAI.  She discussed the profound impact of the National Museum of the American Indian Act (NMAIA) which was passed in 1989 and required the Smithsonian to create a federal inventory of objects of indigenous peoples, and to repatriate these objects accordingly. To fulfill these needs, the museum was created under the same act, and still executes these functions today.

The second speaker from the NMAI was Nancy Kenet Vickery, who discussed an initiative that involved broadening the domestic success of the NMAI by meeting with indigenous communities throughout the world. The International Repatriation Specialist shared her two most recent trips abroad.

The third speaker was Terry Snowball who is Prairie Band Potawatomi and WI Ho-Chunk) and Repatriation Coordinator of the NMAI. He discussed more at length aspects of repatriation that the NMAI has done for indigenous peoples in the United States, in terms of returning ancestral remains, ceremonial items, and other important objects to indigenous peoples.

The last speaker was from the Chickasaw Nation and the Executive Office of the Division of Historic Perseveration Kirk Perry. He discussed the Chickasaw historical struggle within the lens of repatriation. He discussed how British law does not allow the Chickasaw nation, and representatives of other indigenous peoples to retrieve their historical items.

Title of event attended: Indigenous Peoples Peace Agreements and Human Rights: Working to Build Inclusive Societies on the Ground Location: Secretariat Building Date: Hosting Agencies/Organizations: Shimin Gaikou Centre with Co-sponsors: IWGIA & Sami Council

The first panelist discussed forced urbanization, structural conflict and violence, and genocide. She also mentioned Article 30 which states that military activities shall not take place on land designated for Indigenous Peoples.  The second panelist talked about accountability and responsibility - who is responsible to bring justice?

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