August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Monday, May 21, 2007

Indigenous speak out for sacred water at United Nations

Tibetan monks at UN session
Photo Alyssa Macy/Indigenius Media

NEW YORK -- Indigenous Peoples spoke out in defense of the sacredness of water, the women who carry it and humanity's right to pure water, during the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Tia Oros, delivering a collective statement said, "Although we do not always know when we will walk into the prayers of our ancestors, here we have done just that.

"Many thousands of our ancestors have prayed for peace and rain. And, for many decades our relatives throughout the world have dreamed, worked and bled for the creation of this Forum, to have our voices and concerns heard by the world community in this House of Mica, this place recognized by our Hopi brother, the late Thomas Banyaca, at the opening of the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples in 1993.

"For all of them, and for the generations yet to come, we support the immediate adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as adopted by the UN Human Rights Council last year, and we offer these recommendations."

Intervention to the Sixth Session of the
United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Submitted by the Seventh Generation Fund for Indian Development
May 17, 2007

Protection of Water: WATER IS A HUMAN RIGHT

Thank you, Madame Chair, for the opportunity of addressing the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. My name is Tia Oros and I am of the A:shiwi People/Zuni Nation. The Seventh Generation Fund for Indian Development, an Indigenous Peoples’ organization working directly with grassroots Native communities to design and implement ecologically harmonious strategies for sovereignty, human rights, environmental justice, cultural revitalization, and sacred sites protection for Indigenous Nations, submits this intervention on Agenda Item 4b, under the mandated area of Environment, with the following signatories: The Zuni Tribe of the Zuni Indian Reservation, American Indian Law Alliance, Laguna Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment, Tonatierra, Native Youth Coalition, Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade, Tatanka Oyate, Andes Chinchasuyo, Maya Vision, Western Shoshone Defense Project, Buffalo River Dene Nation, Mainyoto Pastoralist Integrated Development Organization, Bangsa Adat Alifuru from Maluku, Indigenous Peoples’ Council on Biocolonialism, Te Runanga Kaimahi, Kaimahi Maori o Aotearoa of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Indigenous Environmental Network, Resisting Environment Destruction on Indigenous Land (RedOil), Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Te Hau Takitini o Aotearoa, Nihiyaw Cree Society, Council of Grandmothers, and Indigenous Peace Action.

For the last two years our organization has addressed the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues regarding the Protection of Water, and it is an honor to do so again. At this time, I urgently reiterate the critical significance of protecting Indigenous Peoples’ full, unencumbered access to clean Water on our territories. This is crucial for all aspects of our health: physical, cultural, and spiritual. Water is boundless. Water is Life.

Although we do not always know when we will walk into the prayers of our ancestors, here we have done just that. Many thousands of our ancestors have prayed for peace and rain. And, for many decades our relatives throughout the world have dreamed, worked and bled for the creation of this Forum, to have our voices and concerns heard by the world community in this House of Mica, this place recognized by our Hopi brother, the late Thomas Banyaca, at the opening of the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples in 1993. For all of them, and for the generations yet to come, we support the immediate adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as adopted by the UN Human Rights Council last year, and we offer these recommendations.

1. We again urgently appeal to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to request the immediate appointment of a United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Protection of Water and Water Catchment Areas in order to gather testimony directly from Indigenous Nations of the world targeted for or impacted by Water privatization, diversion, toxic contamination, dams, pollution, commodification, non-sustainable energy development and other environmental injustices that damage natural, potable and accessible Water supplies on which Indigenous Peoples rely for spiritual and nutritional sustenance. We recall that this recommendation was carried forth by the Permanent Forum to the Economic and Social Development Council when we first requested this in 2005, and we respectfully request that this compelling concern is recognized and advanced once again.
2. We ask that the Special Rapporteur for the Protection of Water and Catchment Areas critically review and assess Water allocation, access policies and regulations that affect the rights of Indigenous Nations, the health of our Peoples and that of future generations. This should be done to identify protective and preventive and restorative mechanisms to restore our Waters and assure that Water is accessible to our Peoples, as well as to repair our diverse ecosystems that rely on the health of natural Water flows where they have been damaged.
3. Our Peoples have a right to say no to any development project on our territories. We call upon the Permanent Forum to strongly advocate for the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples in regard to any development on our territories by any outside entities, including the World Bank and States, whose actions may impact or abrogate our aboriginal and/or treaty rights including right of access to clean, potable Water for all aspects of our life.
4. Further, we ask that Nation-States’ reports to the United Nations contain a focus on Water and also that they include direct participation by Indigenous Peoples in the development of those reports.
5. We recommend that the Permanent Forum take immediate steps in the Commission on Sustainable Development to protect Water from privatization, and from bi-lateral and multi-lateral governmental agreements and other incursions onto our territories that affect the integrity of our Waters, impoverish our Nations and impose additional hardships on Indigenous Peoples, particularly on Indigenous women.
6. We fully support the Indigenous Women’s Caucus statement and its recommendations in light of the unique and essential relationship between women and Water.

Narrative Justification:
Indigenous Peoples know Water as the sacred source and essence of all Life imbued with a spirit and a consciousness. The vitality of Water to our communities is expressed in a rainbow of songs, stories, and ceremonies, holding a special place in our cultures for the continuation of an Indigenous worldview that affirms the vital link of Water to life everlasting. And yet, springs from which our ancestors emerged from within the womb of Mother Earth, precious watersheds that feed our lakes and enable life, and rivers that carry our prayers to the forever after, are being destroyed. Privatization of Water and our other resources places them in the control of multi-national corporations, shortsighted governmental development policies, and the unrelenting encroachment by non-indigenous settlements, forcing us into poverty and pushing us further to the edge of existence, where we are already barely holding on by our fingertips for survival.

Environmental injustice including the ongoing invasions onto Indigenous territories, and the attendant wrongful taking of our natural resources, particularly the nearly unhindered exploitation and commodification of Water, obstruct critically needed access to our Waterways and threaten the survival of Indigenous Peoples and of our distinct cultures. These assaults have direct and tremendously destructive impacts and further impoverish our already vulnerable, besieged Peoples. Although North America is widely assumed to be a region of universal affluence, there are many thousands of Indigenous Peoples and communities, throughout the continent, who have no meaningful system of protection against the wrongful diversion, privatization, and oppression of our Water resources. In fact, many of us are dying of thirst.

Madame Chair, and esteemed members of this Forum, Indigenous women throughout the world who often have the primary responsibility of locating and carrying water for their families, and may risk their lives to do so now find only dust instead of water. In too many places, a polluted stream is our only source of Water. We hunger and can no longer plant our gardens, not because we have forgotten how to nurture life from a seed, but because without access to Water, our crops cannot flourish, and we cannot thrive without them. A child dies every eight seconds for lack of access to clean Water and many victims are our own, Indigenous children. The unquenchable greed of States, corporations, settlers, and other invaders, whose unrelenting actions on our lands constitute a Water war against Indigenous Peoples, are killing us all – violating our ecosystems, condemning our peoples, obliterating our futures.

What were once rich landscapes awake with forests and gardens, rivers and cornfields, alive with animals and birds, and a harmonious diversity of Indigenous cultures, are quickly becoming parched lands that only our tears can soften today. Let us dry our eyes and take action on the recommendations as offered. Water is a human right. Our children, those generations yet to be born, and all of our relations, are the ultimate casualties of this conflict. I urge you all to take immediate action on this most urgent matter. Thank you for your kind attention. Elahkwa.

(Photo above/California coast/Brenda Norrell)

Hopi and Japanese Say Water Has Intelligence
by Brenda Norrell
News from Indian Country, January, 2004

KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. -- Hopi members of Black Mesa Trust said water carries intelligence. Hopi and Japanese are discovering what Hopi and other Indigenous peoples have always known, "Water is alive."
Vernon Masayesva, executive director of Black Mesa Trust, recently visited Japan and met with Shinto priests and researcher Dr. Masaru Emoto, chief of the Hado Institute in Tokyo and author of Message from Water.
During the Hisot Navoti (knowledge of ancestors) water conference at the Hopi Veterans Center, Hopi revealed knowledge of water shared by Hopi and Japanese.
Masayesva showed amazing film footage, revealing startling transformations in water crystals when exposed to music and written words. Emoto's photographs reveal water crystals, under high magnification, have drastically different forms from different water sources. Further, Emoto shows that water changes its expression as a result of human actions.
When water is exposed to the music of Mozart and Beethoven, crystals expand and become more beautiful. These crystals resemble diamonds, with flower buds blossoming on their points, as the music plays.
Emoto explains that water carries and responds to the vibrations of music. He reveals even more amazing research, showing water responds to the written word.
When clear tubes of water are placed over positive and negative words, the structure of water crystals change. Water crystals increase in beauty when placed over the word "peace," but are transformed to dark and ugly crystals when placed over the word "war."
When water is placed over the word "let's," the crystals expand and increase in beauty. However, when water is placed over the word "must," the crystals become ugly with a dark green center. Emoto says water is letting us realize the hidden power of words.
During the gathering for the defense of pure water, Jerry Honawa, Hopi elder, said, "Water has intelligence."
Speaking of water, Masayesva said, "If you are happy, you will have happy crystals; if you are angry, you will have angry crystals." Masayesva also shared the history of the Hopi people, revealing their destiny intertwined with the earth and its mysteries.
"According to Hopi, long ago there was nothing but water from the beginning of time. This is what we call the First World of Hopi. "Life was created from water, from the land, from the sun."
When life was first created, it was beautiful, a perfect circle. On Hopiland today there are areas of perfect seashells, proof that this land was once underwater as Hopi are told. There are perfect fossils here, he said.
"Where does coal come from? It comes from plants. Everywhere you go, you see dinosaur tracks. This must have been a beautiful place at one time."
In the First World, there was balance, harmony and peace. This balance and harmony, however, was destroyed in the Third World because of man and his greed. The ancestors began searching for a safe place to begin a new life. Bird was sent out and returned with news of this place.
"Through the bamboo, they entered the new land,” Masayesva said. "It is a metaphor, we don't really know, but we came from somewhere where there was bamboo." When the people arrived in this new land, they thought they had left evil behind them. But after a child died, they realized that evil had come with them. Those with the two hearts had come. "Evil is necessary to understand what good truly is," Masayesva said.
The people knew they had to learn from the destruction of the Third World and not return to those ways. They wanted to create a new way of life. The Hopi people were not led by politicians, they were led by priests, often the poorest man in the village who denied himself everything for the benefit of his children.
In this new place they found a man who grew beautiful corn. It was Ma'sau, guardian of the land. Ma'sau said it is a harsh land, but if the people were willing to live Ma'sau's way of life, they could stay here.
Ma'sau told the people, "If you follow this way of life, you can stay here forever." Ma'sau showed the people corn, a gourd of water and planting stick. "He said if you decide to stay here you must help me take care of this land, then you can stay."
Ma'sau told them that others are coming. "They will claim everything when they come, even the oceans, the air and the stars." Ma'sau told the Hopi people to migrate to the four corners of the world, then return here to Black Mesa. The gourd to carry water was also a revelation, showing that water here is not infinite, it is limited.
Masayesva said the colors of the corn represent the colors of all mankind, yellow, purple, red and white. The sweet corn also represents the ancestors and the purple the heavens. Corn, too, gave Hopi a new way of life, and meant that the people no longer had to search for food every day, leaving them free for other things.
The planting stick represents tools or technology, which can be used for good or for destruction. There was a time when smallpox nearly eliminated the Hopi people, with only 300 Hopi surviving, Masayesva said technology can prevent and cure illness today, but it threatens to end humankind with the production of nuclear bombs. Nuclear power and travel to distant planets have resulted in dangerous "god-like powers."
The waters--aquifers, springs, lakes, rivers, oceans and glaciers-- work in harmony to sustain life. Hopi believe the aquifers breathe, breathe in rain and snow and breathe it out. The springs are the breathing holes. Humankind is a participant in water-life; mankind's thoughts influence whether the rain and snow comes.
Of the world's water today, Masayesva said 97 percent is seawater and 2 percent is bound in glaciers. Only1 percent is available for drinking.
However, America is a nation of waste. "We are a throwaway society. We think we are never going to run out of anything."
Masayesva said the people must honor their trust as guardians of the water and land.
"If we don't, we will break the circle."
©News From Indian Country January 12, 2004.

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