Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

March 7, 2009

Native Human Rights Defenders Honored in San Francisco

By Brenda Norrell

SAN FRANCISCO -- The International Indian Treaty Council honored Carrie Dann, Western Shoshone, and Manny Pino, Acoma Pueblo, with Human Rights Defenders Awards Saturday night in San Francisco.
"We have the original rights, not aboriginal rights, because we were the first here," Dann said at San Francisco State University.
Dann and Pino spoke during the seminar, "Indigenous Peoples Struggles to Defend Sacred Places," which focused on human rights, sacred places and the international inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Dann spoke on the oppression of the colonizers and the necessity of rising to protect Native sacred places.
Dann said Indigenous Peoples all over the world are suffering because of the so-called civilized worlds. "What does it mean to be civilized?"
"Does it mean you have the right to rape and murder?"
Barrick Gold continues its rape of the land for massive gold mines, coring out mountains and poisoning the water with cyanide, in Indigenous territories around the world.
In Western Shoshone territory, Barrick Gold continues the destruction of the area of sacred Mount Tenabo.
"It is too heartbreaking," Dann said when asked if she had been to Mount Tenabo to witness the destruction.
Pino, known for his efforts to expose the injustices of uranium mining in the Southwest and the assaults on sacred places, said it was an honor to be here with Carrie Dann.
Pino spoke on the need for learning the Native languages and the continuance of the ceremonies.
"It's never too late, hang out with your grandma, hang out with your grandpa," Pino said.
"The most important advice we can get is listening to them."
Pino presented a slide presentation on the horrors of uranium mining for Pueblo and Navajo people. The radioactive contamination was carried by the winds into the foods of the people, in the fields and the foods that were drying. This radioactive dust coated the vegetation of the sheep and contaminated the people.
Photographs of the Jackpile Mine in New Mexico revealed the devastation to the land.
The horror of this 30-year legacy of mining remains now in the form of widespread cancers and Down Syndrome. At the time of the mine, the tribal government was unaware of the impact.
On the Navajo Nation alone, there are 1,300 unreclaimed uranium mines. The radioactive tailings in the Monument Valley area are one fact that no one tells the tourists, Pino said.
"Of course, it is the grassroots people who live in these areas."
Navajos used radioactive materials to build their hogans. Many are sick and dying today.
Pino said the Bush administration claimed that nuclear power was the key for the future, but there was no solution of where to put the waste. At the same time, radioactive waste is blowing in the Southwest.
Pino said it is important to be vigilant with the Obama administration to ensure a nuclear free future.

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