Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

April 18, 2023

Indigenous Peoples at United Nations: Voices from the Earth for a Fractured World

San Carlos Apache Chairman Terry Rambler speaking at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York today/Image by Censored News

Article and images by Brenda Norrell
Censored News

NEW YORK -- Indigenous Peoples from around the world spoke out on climate change, devastating development, murders of Indigenous Peoples, and the impact of false climate solutions like carbon credits, at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues today.

San Carlos Apache Chairman Terry Rambler said Sacred Oak Flat is a place for the ceremonies of Apache. Resolution Copper's planned copper mine would result in an enormous crater, leaving an environmental disaster.

"Oak Flat is a holy site," Chairman Rambler told the UN Forum. "It is an area filled with power." 

“Oak Flat is a holy site, an area of irreplaceable beauty akin to a church, no different than the Wailing Wall, Temple Mount, Australia’s Juukan Gorge, or Mecca’s Kaaba,” Chairman Rambler said. “Apache people have lived, prayed, and died at Oak Flat from time immemorial.”

Chairman Rambler said the United States is failing to comply with international standards and Treaties. (At this point he was cut off for time.)


The Sami youth delegate said 'green energy' is just more 'green colonialism' at the expense of Sami. The green transition is being used to promote industrialism. Sami's response to those who say, "Everyone has to sacrifice something," is this: 'Colonizers have already taken everything we have, there is nothing left to sacrifice.' She received a roar of applause at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York.

The Global Indigenous Youth Caucus representative from Hawaii speaks on the promotion of ancestral knowledge and urges action to stop violence against Indigenous women. She is speaking on honoring the rights of Indigenous stewardship and the autonomy of Indigenous Peoples, at UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Urging free, prior, and informed consent, she received a roar of applause.

False climate solutions like carbon credits in New Zealand are bringing non-Native pine species and destruction, and erosion. Indigenous rights violations mean ecocide and cultural genocide, said a delegate from New Zealand.


"Our way of life is in danger," said the delegate of the Inuit Circumpolar Council. Inuit need global efforts to protect the people and nature in the Arctic. "What happens in the Arctic, does not stay in the Arctic." 

Cameroon delegate: Human rights approach must focus on the rights of each person. Indigenous Peoples must be able to develop their rights in the face of development.

Indigenous delegates from Russia were turned away by U.S. officials who denied them visas, said the Russian Federation delegate at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York.

The Colombian delegate speaks on biodiversity, climate change and forestry. Mega projects are threatening Indigenous Peoples, who were not consulted about the development and destruction. Murders of Indigenous Peoples have increased since the signing of the peace agreement.

Sami delegate: Climate change is impacting our food and mental health. Sami reindeer herders' rights are being violated. Sami youth have held protests in Oslo, Norway because nothing has been done to stop the human rights violations.

The National Congress of American Indians, NCAI, delegate is speaking on climate change and its effects on mental health. Indigenous Peoples knowledge will offer effective solutions. Ecosystems are now threatened, as well as future generations. Indigenous knowledge must be given as much consideration as western science, and decisions must not be made without free, prior and informed consent.

Sami rights, including those of reindeer herders, are being violated. There is an urgent need to mitigate climate change, by reducing emissions.

Life in the Arctic: We do not have roads, we use snowmobiles and deer to move through the snow. We need help in developing health care.

The Rights of Indigenous women in Morocco: Amazigh women and girls are suffering from a lack of health care and education. 

"When the land is well, so are the people." New Zealand delegate speaking on Maori as guardians. Maori must be included in climate change discussions and policies.

(Above) The youth delegate from Suriname speaks on the need for Indigenous voices to be heard.
The UN media reported on the statements from Suriname. "The representative of the Association of Indigenous Village Leaders in Suriname said the collective struggle of Indigenous Peoples has made some of them victims, recalling those who have been assassinated, namely Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira. Organized crime has acted on many fronts, while trade policies and exploitation of natural resources have strengthened States. “The Inter-American Commission [on Human Rights] already issued a measure against Brazil, and even so, we are still marked for death, including myself and 11 other brothers who fight,” he stressed. He urged the Forum to recommend to Brazil that it guarantee the effective protection of Indigenous territories and to recommend to the Inter-American Commission to strengthen guarantees granted in [precautionary] measure 449-22 in their favor.

Bolivia's delegate speaks on saving the life of the planet and the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Both colonialism and climate change, are impacting Indigenous Peoples in Bolivia.

South Africa's delegate speaks at UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. COVID has had a tremendous impact on people. Extractivism and transnational corporations are violating human rights.

Chile's delegate speaks on climate change impacting Mapuche and other Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous women must have a voice in policies.

The delegate from Nepal spoke on the protection of Indigenous Peoples language and culture and the promotion of dignity, at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York.

The New Zealand Human Rights delegate speaks on the devastation for Maori by flooding and climate change.

Qırımlı (Indigenous Crimean Tatar) representative Eskender Bariiev, Ukraine delegate spoke on climate change and the war with Russia at UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, urging Russia to withdraw and stop the war.

Damage from tourism and heritage sites

Indigenous Peoples Rights International pointed out the results of tourism and heritage sites.

Describing the impact of tourism on Indigenous rights, she pointed out that tourism is often linked to the creation of “conservation areas” or “cultural heritage sites” in Indigenous Peoples’ territory.  She expressed hope that the Forum will consider the forced displacement resulting from this, along with the commercialization of Indigenous arts, culture and spirituality, reports UN media.

Prince Edward Island: Canada's Genocide

The representative of the Native Council of Prince Edward Island expressed concern over ongoing violations of Indigenous rights in Canada.  Two years ago, Canada adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples without reservation.  However, it included its own preamble that defines the peoples to whom the Declaration applies.  This undermines that instrument and is “nothing more than neo-colonialism masquerading as a symbolic gesture of reconciliation”, he stressed.  Noting that it has been two years since his community submitted a formal complaint against Canada to the Human Rights Council concerning the treatment of Indigenous children, he called on the international community to condemn Canada for its continued genocidal and exclusionary practices towards his community, the UN media reports.

West Papua: Indigenous victims of Indonesia's military

The United Nations media reports:

The representative of Organisasi Pribunmi Papua Barat underscored that the agreement between Indonesia and the Netherlands concerning West Papua — established by General Assembly resolution 1752 — “has made a giant disaster of our life”. He asked the Assembly to put that resolution on the Trusteeship Council’s agenda, as Indonesia has sent thousands of troops to fight the West Papua National Liberation Army, and Indigenous People are dying as a result. He urged the Special Rapporteur to look into what is happening in West Papua and called on the General Assembly to revoke its resolution 2504 that established a related “fake referendum”.

Remembering Indigenous who have died in Colombia

Darío José Mejía Montalvo (Colombia), following his election by acclamation as Chair of the Forum’s twenty-second session, paid tribute to all Indigenous Peoples’ ancestors and the leaders and allies who lost their lives defending their people and territories. He underscored that climate change and biodiversity loss cannot be resolved without Indigenous Peoples’ real participation, as their territories are at the heart of this discussion. “It is now time for States and international bodies of the United Nations to set their quotas for action and practices behind their words and guarantee," he stressed in the UN media's report.

Colombia's President: Stop extracting oil, coal and gas: For too many, war is a way out of the climate crisis

GUSTAVO PETRO, President of Colombia, recalled his meeting with Roberto Cobaria of the U’wa people several decades ago, during which the Indigenous leader told him that removing oil from the planet was akin to “taking out the blood of the earth, and this would not be without consequence”.  Later, Western science concluded that extracting and using oil was extinguishing life on the planet.  Thus, Indigenous Peoples’ vision of the cosmos, understanding of life and quest for balance with nature “was absolutely spot-on and a practical necessity for the reality of life”.  These two systems of knowledge — one ancestral, one Western — came to the same conclusion, he emphasized; namely, “if we remove oil from the entrails of the earth, humanity will perish," the UN media reports.

Noting that Colombia is working to empower Indigenous People, many of whom live in forests, he stressed that the Amazon rainforest is vital for balancing the global climate and its revitalization is a global imperative.  To that end, Colombia will convene a summit of countries with territorial responsibility over the rainforest in August in Belém.  He expressed hope that the Indigenous Peoples living in the Amazon rainforest will grant their support so that the summit can “actually be a merger between the Indigenous desire for this vital balance and the political reality that emerges from the administrations and agendas of Governments who have sovereignty over this territory”.

But, “the climate crisis cannot be resolved unless we stop extracting oil, coal and gas”, he underscored.  Yet, global discussions are moving away from the core of the problem, as powerful countries now devoted their resources to the war, giving them a way out of the climate crisis.  Thus, pressure toward global peace is fundamental.  Further, the international community cannot wait for private capital to solve the climate crisis.  The accumulation of wealth has created the greatest harm humanity has ever known — “the capacity for its own extinction”.  States must plan for the massive investments needed to immediately transition to decarbonized economies.  He added that Mr. Cobaria was right:  “If we remove oil from the earth, life will disintegrate.”

Norway: Wind Park threatens reindeer herding culture
Indigenous Peoples Rights International states:

Norway: Supreme Court of Norway rules that wind park construction threatens Sámi peoples’ rights In October 2021, the Supreme Court of Norway ruled that the construction of the Fosen wind park in Western Norway threatens Sámi reindeer herding culture, in violation of Article 27 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Initially, a lower court found that the Sámi had lost their grazing land as a result of the two wind parks, and ordered Fosen Vind to pay the herders NOK90m (US$10m) to buy fodder for the animals for the foreseeable future. Sámi groups appealed this ruling claiming the concession was illegal.

One year after the landmark Supreme Court verdict, Norway’s Ministry of Petroleum and Energy has not complied with the reindeer herding community’s demand to deconstruct and repatriate the wind farm and restore the appropriated winter pastures and instead believes it is possible find a lasting “solution” through dialogue and further investigations. Leif Arne Jåma, a reindeer herder in Fovsen Njaarke, responded to the Norwegian government’s assessment plan; “If the Government continues its attempts to wriggle around the verdict in order to protect capital interests, it will probably result in a serious weakening of international trust in Norway as a pioneering country in terms of Indigenous rights.”

Following the Supreme Court decision about the Fosen Vind project, Norway’s largest asset manager Storebrand shared in its periodic report that it placed a different wind energy developer, Eolus Vind, under observation for human rights risks on Southern Sámi reindeer herding lands related to the Øyfjellet Wind Park.

In the report, CEO of Storebrand, Jan Erik Saugestad stated, “Enabling a just transition to a carbon neutral economy will require investments in renewable energy, but such investments must also 14 respect the rights of indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups.” The Sámi Council is urging other investors to withdraw from the Øyfjellet wind power project, which would similarly threaten ancestral reindeer herding and Southern Sámi culture, and the Government of Norway to comply with their human rights obligations.

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Article and screen captures by Brenda Norrell. Copyright Censored News.

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