August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Indigenous Environmental Network at UN: The Right to Water and Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous Environmental Network
Statement on Agenda Item 7 – The Right to Water and Indigenous Peoples
10th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
May 24, 2011
Tar Sands

Read by Benjamin Powless
Posted from the UNPFII 10 Network
Thank you Madame Chairperson,

The right to clean and abundant water is fundamental to preserving and upholding the sovereignty, self-determination, health, and cultural survival of Indigenous Peoples in North America and the rest of the world. As Indigenous Peoples, we have a sacred relationship to water, but this relationship is being undermined and our rights violated on a consistent basis, which requires immediate action.

Tar Sands

In North America, we have been witnessing the accelerated development of the Tar Sands megaproject, with devastating effects on Indigenous communities and the water sources they rely upon.

Primarily, the water used in the extraction and processing of the Tar Sands into oil requires between three and five barrels of water per barrel of oil. Much of this water must be then kept in giant toxic pools, called ‘tailings ponds’, which kill many birds and animals, and have been found to leak back into the waterways and traditional lands of Indigenous Peoples.

The contamination of the water has lead to the cumulative poisoning of many animals and fish that Indigenous communities depend upon, as well as the water bodies which have always been used for consumption. This has lead to outrageous levels of sickness and disease in remote communities.

Further to that, numerous companies are attempting to build pipelines on the lands of Indigenous communities, without their Free, Prior and Informed Consent, in highly ecologically- and culturally-sensitive areas. Just a month ago, a pipeline spill of over 4.5 million barrels in Lubicon Cree territories went unreported for days, while the government of Canada and Alberta failed to notify the community, as many people got sick and a nearby school had to be shut down.

Lastly on the issue of the Tar Sands, Indigenous communities have been clear in support to maintain a ban on tanker traffic on the coasts of British Colombia, with the oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico and the Exxon Valdeez disaster still fresh in memory.


Moving to the subject of mining, we note that for sixty years, the United States has failed to address widespread contamination of Navajo water and land from uranium mining and milling. Despite this tragic history, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has licensed a uranium project in the middle of two Navajo communities it concedes will contaminate those communities' drinking water sources. Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium mining has filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to stop this project because it will violate the rights to life, health and cultural integrity guaranteed under international law.

Offshore drilling

Finally, the idea offshore drilling in the Arctic has become popular with some governments. However, drilling in cold Arctic waters comes at increased and unacceptable risks. Oil and gas production is never risk-free and the consequences in Arctic waters would be disastrous.

Arctic conditions such as freezing temperatures, reduced visibility, seasonal ice and extreme weather all increase the probability and consequences of a spill. The presence of sea ice poses significant challenges to cleaning up spilled oil, as do potential remote drilling locations.

Offshore drilling in the Arctic threatens to have devastating impacts on fragile ice edge ecosystems upon which indigenous peoples and coastal communities rely for food security, economic, social and cultural needs.

We therefore respectfully submit the following recommendations for consideration and adoption:

- The Permanent Forum should stress to states that they must start leaving identified fossil fuel deposits, including Tar Sands deposits, in the ground if we are to avoid serious violations of Indigenous rights and impacts of climate change

- The governments of Canada, the United States, and their sub-governments must obtain the Free, Prior and Informed Consent from Indigenous Peoples and communities, and stop current projects taking place without consent

- We urge the Permanent Forum to work with UN bodies whose mandate relates to water to provide full financial support for an Indigenous World Forum on Water and Peace, that is led by, planned and developed with full representation of Indigenous Peoples from all regions throughout the entire process

Nia:wenkowa, Thank you.

Indigenous Environmental Network at UN: Free, prior and informed consent

Photo by Ben Powless, Mohawk


Indigenous Environmental Network Statement
United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
May 16th to May 27th, 2011
UN Headquarters, New York, NY

Madam Chairwoman,

The principles and rights of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent are vital to upholding the human rights and fundamental and inherent right to self-determination of Indigenous Peoples in North America and throughout the world. FPIC is a basic underpinning of Indigenous Peoples’ ability to conclude and implement valid treaties and agreements, to have sovereignty over and protection of our lands, waters, air, and natural resources, and to develop and participate in processes that redress violations of our land, water and treaty rights.

FPIC must immediately be implemented at all levels as the right of our Indigenous Nations and communities to be thoroughly informed about any development affecting our lands and resources, particularly in connection with our environment, forests, minerals, air, water – both freshwater, our oceans and our sea ice and any development affecting our intellectual knowledge, the human health of our women and families, and any development involving genetic manipulation that could have affect on our security, balance and well-being.

FPIC is more than mere consultation. Related to development, governments, financial institutions such as the World Bank, and corporations frequently achieve their version of a FPIC standard through the policy of consultation. But consultation, on its own, does not constitute FPIC. Consultation is not equivalent to consent. Indigenous Peoples have to right to say no.

Our network of Indigenous Peoples is based in the United States, with affiliates in Canada. I do not have time to list the hundreds of western forms of industrial development involving the devastation and degradation of indigenous territories from mining and mineral extraction. Our Indigenous network, as an example of a few Indigenous Nations and organizations negatively affected by unsustainable energy and mineral extraction are the Lipan Apache Women Defense; the San Carlos Apache Tribe of Arizona; the Lipan Apache Band of Texas; the Navajo Nation Dependents of Uranium Workers (Dine’ Nation); and in Canadian, the Dene, Cree and Metis peoples fighting the Canadian Tar Sands as the largest construction project ever in the history of mankind, more earth has been moved since its beginning then the Suez Canal, the Great Pyramids and the Great Wall of China. If the rights of FPIC were legislated domestically, these devastations would not be happening.

The standards, policy and right of FPIC and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP) must be immediately implemented at every level of government, within financial institutions, and in decision-making bodies within the United States and Canada and throughout the world where Indigenous Peoples live.

Madam Chair, my concluding point and recommendation is on the matter of the climate crisis. The policy and rights of FPIC are not being recognized with the danger of not being implemented in UN climate mitigation and adaptation policy. One of the key area of climate mitigation is a carbon market regime consisting of emissions-carbon trading and offset projects with no guarantees for adequate nor enforceable safeguards. Therefore, we recommend the appointment of a member of the Permanent Forum as Special Rapporteur to conduct a study on existing and potential violations of the human rights of Indigenous Peoples affected by carbon markets, the Clean Development Mechanism and REDD-type projects (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), and to report thereon to the Forum at its eleventh session, in 2012.

El Salvador Mayor to UN Indigenous Forum 2011

10thSession of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Agenda item 4: Human Rights a) Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples May 16-27, 2011
Oral Statement by Roberto A.A. Barrientos,
Mayor of Izalco, Sonsonate, El Salvador
(On Behalf of the Common Town Hall and the Municipal Town Hall of Izalco, Sonsonate, El Salvador)
Photo: Mayor Roberto Barrientos/AIM West

Dr. Myrna Cunningham,
Distinguished Chairperson of the Tenth Session of the Permanent Forum, in the name of the Indigenous peoples of El Salvador, we congratulate you for your designation as the chairperson of this honorable agency; and we ask the creator to bless you in your business.
Likewise, we would like to call your attention to the following: We, the Indigenous peoples of El Salvador, have suffered the systematic denial of our human, economic, cultural and socio-political rights for the last 500 years, endured under the imposition of Frontiers and the state alien to our ancestral models of life.We are taking advantage of this opportunity at the Permanent Forum to denounce before the peoples of the world the genocide committed by the Salvadorian State against our Indigenous brothers through the massacres of our peoples, especially the massacre of 1932, when more than 35,000 Indigenous persons died in the Western zone of the country, and that of 1944, when Indigenous leaders were selectively assassinated throughout the country. More ...
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Lil'wat, St'at'imc UN Indigenous Permanent Forum

Photo Censored News
 Líl’wat, St’át’imc, in New York at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

By Lil'wat, St'at'imc
Vancouver, BC
Censored News

NEW YORK -- A delegation from Líl’wat, St’át’imc, is attending the 10th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York, USA, from May 16 to 27, 2011. Lil’wat is one indigenous community of eleven within St’at’imc (STAT-lee-uhm), about 150 miles north of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The St’at’imc, otherwise known as the Lillooet Tribe, are a sovereign nation.
The delegation brings news of two serious actions they are taking to protect themselves from Canada and British Columbia’s incursions on their aboriginal title, rights and freedoms, and self-determination.

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The first is a petition to the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. This petition complains of repercussions of the lack of treaty between either Líl’wat or St’át’imc with Canada; repercussions which include the imposition of the Indian Act on St’át’imc citizens. Petition 879-07, Loni Edmonds v. Canada, was accepted on July 13, 2007, and has still not been reviewed. This petition speaks principally to the lack of treaty between the sovereign nation of St’at’imc, particularly the independent community of Lil’wat, and Canada. The key issue which brings the petition forth is British Columbia’s indiscriminate and wholly destructive practice of seizing our children and removing them to non-indigenous homes. This is in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

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 The second issue they bring forward is the recent progress of the “St’át’imc Settlement Agreement with BC Hydro” and the province of British Columbia. This Final Agreement with the public utility BC Hydro Power Corp. has been rejected by a number of concerned citizens for many reasons which fall into two categories: the Agreement itself is inadequate, and the process by which the elected Chiefs manufactured its ratification is an offense to traditional St’át’imc governance and even failed to adhere to their own ratification procedures. Construction of dams and generating facilities in St’at’imc territory, to say nothing of the high voltage powerlines and substations, has caused irreparable harm to the St’at’imc way of life. We wonder if, in fact we suspect that, the elected Chiefs were under some sort of duress.

The people will be orienting themselves in the international forum to see how their complaints against Canada may be made better known internationally, and resolutions supported. They will also be encouraging the debate at the Permanent Forum to turn to matters of treaty, or the lack of which, and the culpability of colonial states who deny recognition to the indigenous nations whose lands and peoples they have co-opted.

Having exhausted the “domestic remedies” available in Canada, the petitioners seek protection from Canada’s persistent interference in their families, communities and in the larger St’át’imc nation socially, politically and economically.

They also seek recourse for the ongoing violence against themselves, homelands and their entire way of life. Since provisions in the Canada-legislated Indian Act, 1876, restricting freedom of travel, meeting to discuss the “land question,” and retention of legal counsel were lifted in 1959, Líl’wat and other St’át’imc have been pursuing justice in BC and Canadian courts – where their cases have been improperly thrown out, left unfinished, or concluded unsatisfactorily- ie., thrown out of court when St’at’imc Hereditary Chiefs demand evidence of Canada or British Columbia’s extinguishment of the St’at’imc title and right. Canada cannot provide this evidence because it does not exist. The courts seem to defer to Canada.

The Líl’wat delegation is releasing this news to the press in hopes that it will be reported as presented for the education of all residents of colonial occupations on indigenous lands.

Please read our written submission to the UN PFII 10th session. Líl’wat, also known as Mt Currie, located north of Whistler, is a St’át’imc community.
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