August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lakotas Owe Aku submits water documentation to United Nations 2011

By Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way)

(March 9, 2011) The UN Independent Expert on water and sanitation, Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque, recently completed a fact-finding mission in the US, which lasted from February 22 to March 4, 2011. Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way) welcomed her visit and introduced itself as a: “key player in efforts to stop uranium mining and exploration in our territory which multinational
corporations are attempting to expand and continue. Already, the drinking water in our territory has been deemed unfit for human consumption while the mining goes on and expands. This is not a unique situation in the central part of this continent and we sincerely hope that your next visit will bring you to our homeland where you can meet with our people affected by the racism that sacrifices our territory, its people, land and water, in order to fuel the unbridled consumption of resources outside our territory.”
Owe Aku also submitted two related documents on water resources for the consideration of the Independent Expert:
1. Executive Summary of Crying Earth Rise Up-Environmental Justice and the Survival of
a People: Uranium Mining and the Oglala Lakota People. This document summarizes the more extensive contents of the second document.
2. Crying Earth Rise Up-Environmental Justice and the Survival of a People: Uranium Mining and the Oglala Lakota People.
In a press conference on the last day of the mission, she raised a number of issues on discrimination, availability, accessibility and quality related to water and sanitation in the US. One of her focus points was the fact that 13 per cent of American Indian households have no access to safe water and/or
wastewater disposal, in sharp contrast with 0.6 per cent in non-Native households.
In commenting on how the US must become more active in eliminating discrimination in the practice of water availability and safety, Ms. de Albuquerque said, “[t]he US must ensure that water and sanitation are available at a price people can afford. Ensuring the right to water and sanitation for all requires a paradigm shift – new designs and approaches that promote human rights, that are affordable and that create more value in terms of public health, community development, and global ecosystem protection.”
Along with undertaking country missions, the Independent Expert is mandated by the Human Rights
Council to 1) develop a dialogue with Governments, UN bodies, the private sector and civil society on best practices related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation; 2) offer further clarification on the content of human rights obligations in relation to water and sanitation; and 3) make recommendations that could help the realization of the MDGs, especially environmental sustainability.
In light of the important recommendations made by the Independent Expert, Owe Aku is now seeking to facilitate information exchange on the harmful effects of uranium mining on the health and environment of tribal members living in Pine Ridge, especially as it relates to sacred water. These efforts, though community-based, are global in scope as they incorporate human rights and promote the vision of clean water and sanitation for the benefit of peoples’ health, culture and environment, not just within the human community, but inclusive of the environment that sustains us on our territory.
Executive summary document:
Intʼl Justice Project
720 W. 173rd St., #59
New York City 10032
Bring Back the Way
PO Box 325
Manderson, SD 57756

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