|Photo: Vicious dogs attack Native Americans defending the graves|
of their ancestors from Dakota Access bulldozers.
Ocheti Sakowin Camp Human Rights Observers
"Water is the first medicine that the Creator gave us." -- Lee Plenty Wolf
From: Ocheti Sakowin Camp Human Rights Observers, Standing Rock, North Dakota
To: International Community and Supporters
RE: Use of Dogs, Chemical Spray, and the Desecration of Sacred Sites and Indigenous Peoples
Human Rights on September 3, 2016
Date: September 10, 2016
Greetings relatives and friends from the plains of the Ocheti Sakowin,
This letter is not a joyful letter of salutations, but one of mourning, and heartbreak concerning the violation of indigenous peoples’ human rights last Saturday near the Cannonball River in Standing Rock, North Dakota.
The media continues to misrepresent the truth about this gathering, particularly the acts of violent aggression and genocidal tactics used on our people. First, we are protectors of life, of water, not protesters. Indigenous peoples here are exercising a human and indigenous right to
self-determination over the lands, territories, and resources they traditionally used and occupied.
Last week, water protectors were physically attacked by private security hired by Dakota Access as they peacefully gathered and prayed in response to the destruction and desecration of known and demarcated sacred sites and burial grounds. The people present, led by our women,
fearing the bulldozers would cause irreparable harm to their sacred grounds, gathered with arms linked in order to halt the desecration.
In response, a security firm hired by Dakota Access released dogs on those gathered.
Several people were bitten by dogs including a pregnant woman. The people were also sprayed with mace. This traumatic event must be addressed in a just and transparent way and Dakota Access must be held accountable for this violence.
Following the incident, people returned and gathered at the camp to share and reflect on what happened. Many expressed trauma, fear, and sorrow at the disturbance of their ancestors’ graves and sacred sites. There was unease because this camp understands that the spirits of those
disturbed are now unsettled. A prayer march was held the following day as a way for people to heal and recover following this significant cultural desecration.
The events on September 3rd were a violation of fundamental human rights. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) protects our traditional lands, waters and sacred sites. (1) The Declaration specifically recognizes and protects the
important relationship of indigenous peoples to their sacred sites. (2)
The protection of our sacred sites is central to our identity and culture. A 2014 review of the United States by the United Nations Human Rights Council noted that the U.S. “must protect indigenous peoples from
desecration, contamination, and destruction.” (3)
In addition, any development project must obtain indigenous peoples’ free, prior and informed consent. The violence and desecration last week
violated these rights and we request that the State accept that it did not protect the Standing Rock tribe from these violations.
The use of violence against peaceful indigenous movements is a common historic theme for our peoples. Those at the camp shared that recent events awakened historic trauma regarding other peaceful indigenous gatherings. The violent tactics against a peaceful gathering remind us of the response to Parihaka in Aotearoa New Zealand.
As indigenous human rights observers, the deliberate desecration of sacred sites is an ongoing form of colonization in breach of international human rights (4) and domestic Treaty obligations. It is concerning that a large corporation violated our rights and that the police did not intervene and protect the people.
We are deeply concerned and outraged that the Dakota Access company and their hired private security contractors will not be held accountable.
We call on States, all human rights bodies, particularly the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, UN officials, and ambassadors to visit and speak to those who have suffered and continue to feel trauma and distress as a result of the event.
We do not want this incident to be forgotten.
In good thoughts and prayer,
Ocheti Sakowin Camp Human Rights Observers
Kevin Hart - AFN Regional Chief
Kingi Snelgar - Maori
Michelle Cook - Navajo
1 Articles 11, 12, 13, 25 and 26 of UNDRIP.
2 Article 25 of UNDRIP.
3 CCPR/C/USA/CO para. 25. 4 It is also a breach of the right to culture under Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 (“ICCPR”)