UNITED NATIONS — The United States must do more to heal the wounds of indigenous peoples caused by more than a century of oppression, including restoring control over lands Native Americans consider to be sacred, a UN human rights investigator said late Friday.
James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, just completed a 12-day visit to the United States where he met with representatives of indigenous peoples in the District of Columbia, Arizona, Alaska, Oregon, Washington State, South Dakota, and Oklahoma. He also met with US government officials.
“I have heard stories that make evident the profound hurt that indigenous peoples continue to feel because of the history of oppression they have faced,” Anaya said in a statement issued by the UN human rights office in Geneva.
That oppression, he said, has included the seizure of lands and resources, the removal of children from their families and communities, the loss of languages, violation of treaties, and brutality, all grounded in racial discrimination.
Anaya welcomed the US decision to endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2010 and other steps the government has taken, but said more was needed. His findings will be included in a final report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council. While not binding, the recommendations carry moral weight that can influence governments.
“It is clear that this history does not just blemish the past, but translates into present day disadvantage for indigenous peoples in the country,” Anaya said.
“There have still not been adequate measures of reconciliation to overcome the persistent legacies of the history of oppression, and that there is still much healing that needs to be done,” he said.
In Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, where some Native Americans depend on hunting and fishing, Anaya said tribes face “ever-greater threats ... due to a growing surge of competing interests, and in some cases incompatible extractive activities, over these lands and resources.” “In Alaska, indigenous peoples complain about a complex and overly restrictive state regulatory apparatus that impedes their access to subsistence resources (fish and wildlife),” he said.
Mining for natural resources in parts of the country has also caused serious problems for indigenous peoples. — Reuters