U.N. Help Asked To Protect Navajo Human Rights - SMSC Saves Crow Creek Land
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK – The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission and Navajo traditional leaders have a few recommendations for the United Nations on the United States' moral and human rights obligations to Navajos and other indigenous peoples when the U.N. Universal Periodic Review is held in November.
The Diné and other indigenous nations have been sovereign nations since time immemorial, with supreme authority over their peoples, lands and territories, according to the Navajo traditional leaders that make up the Diné Hataali Association.
But when colonial governments such as the United States attempted to take possession of indigenous lands “without free, prior and informed consent,” they embraced the practice of entering nation-to-nation treaties and declared that all treaties entered by the United States “shall be the supreme Law of the Land.”
By 1789, the United States had entered only a few treaties with European countries but already had signed nine treaties with indigenous nations, ultimately negotiating, signing and ratifying more than 350 formal nation-to-nation treaties.
Though self-determination and sovereignty are fundamental and inherent rights of the Diné, ordained by the Holy People, according to the traditional leaders, “The United States, through its Supreme Court and its Congress, deems the Navajo Nation and other indigenous nations as less than a sovereign nation and is intentionally dismantling and destroying (their) inherent right to self-determination ...”
The United States has claimed title to the lands, resources, minerals and water belonging to the Navajo Nation and other tribes, intentionally destroying their economies, social organizations and cultures, they said. These actions imposed strict limitations on the natural advancement and implementation of indigenous peoples’ self-determination.
The Diné Hataali Association is asking for full recognition of the fundamental and inherent human right of the Diné to self-determination; immediate ratification and implementation of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and protection of sacred sites, among other guarantees.
According to the Navajo Human Rights Commission, when Congress enacted the Navajo and Hopi Indian Land Settlement Act of 1974, which ordered the relocation of Diné from their ancestral lands, it allegedly was to resolve a conflict created by an 1882 presidential executive order.
“Eventually, the pages of history disclosed that the relocation occurred because the Diné and Hopis lived on top of the richest coal beds in North America. To access and exploit these resources, large transnational energy companies aggressively lobbied the U.S. to relocate Diné and Hopis without delay,” the commission states in its submission to the United Nations.
As a result, non-English-speaking traditional Diné elders were severed from their holistic Life Way and their traditional homeland. Children who were too young to qualify for benefits offered to their parents and grandparents want to revitalize and preserve their culture and are seeking lands to build homes for themselves and future generations.
The relocatees and their descendants, particularly those in urban areas, are denied the opportunity to learn, participate and pass on Diné traditional healing practices and ceremonies, the commission said.
Areas large enough to accommodate traditional ceremonies that last for several days usually do not exist in urban centers. Smaller ceremonies commonly held in traditional hogans also are unavailable and city ordinances exclude building these structures in residential zones primarily because of the necessity of an open fireplace, which is central to the hogan.
The commission is asking the U.N. to address these issues so that indigenous people can practice and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. Also requested are supplemental appropriations to purchase comparable lands to build homes, with adequate space for farming, ranching, and traditional and ceremonial healing practices for those directly impacted by relocation.
In addition, the commission stated that it is the inherent right of the Diné and other tribes to preserve and protect their lands, resources, waters and minerals from economic exploitation.
The Navajo Nation declared a moratorium on uranium mining in 1983, then in December 1992 former Navajo Nation President Peterson Zah signed an executive order moratorium on uranium mining and finally the Navajo Nation Council adopted the Diné Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005 which legislatively prohibits uranium mining within Diné lands and territories.
Despite the Nation’s clearly stated position, new mining is planned within bordering “checkerboard” lands that could contaminate Diné lands and water, the commission stated.
“As a result, it has become clear that meaningful political and economic self-determination of indigenous peoples will never be possible without indigenous peoples’ having the legal authority to exercise control over their lands and territories.”
Commissioners are asking the United Nations' Human Rights Council to press the United States and its political subdivisions to actively engage in true nation-to-nation negotiations and take steps to assure that the Diné and other tribes enjoy complete ownership of and benefits from their lands, resources, waters and minerals.
They also are asking the Human Rights Council to press the World Bank and other multilateral development banks to abstain from supporting extractive industry projects that affect the Diné and other tribes.
Shakopee Mdewakanton Donation, Loan Will Save Crow Creek Land Seized By IRS
By Tessa Lehto
Prior Lake, MN – The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe of South Dakota have reached a final agreement which will save 7,100 acres of tribal land from seizure by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe was approved for a $2.7 million SMSC loan to buy back land that was seized by the IRS and sold at public auction in December 2009. The closing of the loan comes within the 180-day period after the sale during which the property can be redeemed.
According to the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, approximately 7,100 acres were seized and sold for $2.57 million in response to a debt accrued over bad tax advice. According to the lawsuit, “The tribe has attempted since then to pay the arrearages and subsequent amounts as they come due, but has been unable to bring the employment taxes current because over this same amount of time the Internal Revenue Services have levied and garnished various accounts of the tribe making it impossible for the tribe to bring the taxes current.”
In addition to the loan, a $1 million Shakopee Mdewakanton tribal grant (in two installments of $500,000) was also made to the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe for property tax payment and operating expenses relating to the IRS land seizure situation.
With approximately 3,000 members and a reservation of 225,000 acres, the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe consists of the members of the Isanti and Ihanktowan divisions of the Great Sioux Nation.
For more information about the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, call (605) 245-2221.
About the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community The SMSC utilizes its financial resources from gaming and non-gaming enterprises to pay for all of the internal infrastructure of the Tribe, including but not limited to roads, water and sewer systems, emergency services, and essential services to its Tribal members in education, health, and welfare. The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has a charitable giving program which comes from a cultural and social tradition to assist those in need.
Over the past 13 years, the SMSC has donated more than $180.8 million to charitable organizations and Indian Tribes. Since 1996 the SMSC paid more than $6.6 million for shared local road construction projects and an additional $5 million for road projects on the reservation.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, a federally recognized Indian Tribe in Minnesota, is the owner and operator of Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, Little Six Casino, Playworks, Dakotah! Sport and Fitness, The Meadows at Mystic Lake, and other enterprises on a reservation south of the Twin Cities.
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