Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

April 17, 2024

Warriors for a New Generation: Indigenous Youths at the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Morgan Brings Plenty, Cheyenne River Lakota. Screenshot by Censored News.

Warriors for a New Generation: Indigenous Youths at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

By Brenda Norrell, Censored News, April 17, 2024

NEW YORK -- Indigenous youths from around the world challenged corporations and institutions -- rising as warriors, defenders and changemakers that are honoring Mother Earth and protecting future generations, at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on Tuesday, the second day of the two week forum.

Energy Transfer's lawsuit against Greenpeace is an attempt to silence the voices for Mother Earth, and Indigenous who are battling the Dakota Access Pipeline, said Morgan Brings Plenty, Cheyenne River Lakota, speaking at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Brings Plenty said Lakota youths are here to warn the global community about the rising threat of abusive lawsuits known as SLAPP lawsuits, Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.

She said the lawsuit of Energy Transfer, owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline, is an attack on the peaceful protest of Indigenous Peoples at Standing Rock in North Dakota from May of 2016 to May of 2017, and is seeking $300 million in damages. It is expected to go to trial this summer.

"The lawsuit against Greenpeace is also an attack on the Indigenous movement in our fight for self determination to protect Mother Earth, our water, sacred and cultural sites, our youths, and future generations."

In her passionate appeal to the U.N. Permanent Forum, Brings Plenty said the lawsuit is trying to silence anyone that is speaking out.

"These colonial lawsuits are sending a warning to anyone who is thinking about speaking out to be quiet."

"Any of you could be next."

Morgan Brings Plenty is the daughter of Joye Braun, among the leaders of the resistance to the construction of the pipeline at Standing Rock, 2016 -- 2017. Joye was among the first to set up her tipi to protect the waters of the Missouri and Cannonball Rivers. The Water Protectors of Standing Rock became a global movement.

Annalee Yellowhammer with Morgan Brings Plenty. Screenshot by Censored News.

Annalee Yellowhammer, Lakota youth from Standing Rock Youth Council, told the U.N. Permanent Forum that the youths from the sovereign Standing Rock Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Indigenous Nation are here to draw attention to the ongoing struggle to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.

Yellowhammer said members of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues visited Standing Rock and reported on the concerns in October of 2016. The members of the Forum heard from elders, tribal leaders and water protectors. At that time, the Forum expressed concerns about the process of approving the pipeline.

Now, a U.S. federal judge has ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to carry out a full  environmental impact statement, which will decide whether the pipeline should be shut down. A decision on the environmental impact statement is expected in 2024.

Although the pipeline was built, Yellowhammer said the Indigenous-led struggle continues to shut it down. 

"These actions by the government of the United States and the government of North Dakota are violating the rights of self-determination of Standing Rock Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Nation, and its youths, and the rights of future generations."

White Mountain Apache Youth, National Indigenous Women's Rights. Screenshot by Censored News.

Speaking on the high rate of violence and Indigenous youth suicides, the White Mountain Apache youth representative for National Indigenous Women's Rights pointed out a powerful lesson learned at Standing Rock, during the resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

She said during the uprising at Standing Rock, there were zero reported cases of suicide, revealing that youths found purpose in defending their sacred resource, their  sacred waters, and it enabled youths to lead in strength.

She called on Indigenous to prioritize practicing traditions and ceremonies.

Speaking of the need to battle the trafficking of Indigenous girls and two spirit individuals, she said, "Indigenous youths deserve the right to live."

Indigenous youths deserve not just to live -- but to thrive, she said.

Australian Indigenous Youth Testifying on Incarceration of Children. Screenshot by Censored News.

Australia is again mourning the deaths in custody of their young ones, an Indigenous Australian youth told the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. "How many more times and how many more forums before the Australian government listens, and more importantly, acts."

"Indigenous peoples from our babies to our elders have the right to self determination."

Australia has no mechanism for upholding or implementing the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and continues to fail Indigenous youth, which results in low life expectancy and high rates of incarceration.

"Here we are again, mourning more deaths of our young ones who have died in custody in maximum security prisons and died in solitary confinement," she said, with her voice breaking with grief.

"It is not just a moral imperative, but a legal imperative," she said of honoring the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

Australia must take concrete actions to prevent the mass incarceration, and undue removal of youths from the communities. In order to prevent the incarceration of children, legislation must be amended to establish the minimal age of criminal responsibility to 14 years.

"We deserve the right to self-govern our country and our community."

"When you protect our rights to self determination, you protect our rights to life, and in doing so protect the rights of humanity's future."

Ontario Native Women's Organization, Youth Representative. Screenshot by Censored News.

"In our teachings, Indigenous youths are sacred, a gift from the Creator," a youth representative of the Ontario Native Women's Organization, told the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

"We want to shape our future, not to worry about it."

Pointing out that young women like herself are the future leaders, she called on the U.N. Forum to recognize Indigenous youths as changemakers.

"Recognize and respect Indigenous youths as leaders and changemakers in our communities," she said.

"Indigenous youths know what is needed to heal our communities."

Indigenous youths are not afraid to assert themselves, and need support and services as they are protecting the next seven generations, she said. Her words brought a roar of applause.

The Ontario Native Women’s Organization is the oldest and largest Indigenous women’s organization in Canada, representing over 30 Indigenous women’s groups.

Ka Lāhui Hawai’i Youths. Screenshot by Censored News.

Hawaiians are struggling with disaster capitalism, Hawaiian youths with Ka Lāhui Hawai’i told the UN Permanent Forum. Corporations and developers are using the aftermath of the 2023 fires to seize land in practices that are not in line with Hawaiian culture and are not sustainable.

Indigenous youths now face both environmental violence and cultural erasure.

Hawaiian youths are struggling to sustain life, not industry, and need youth-focused housing initiatives that are founded in cultural roots, in order to mitigate the trauma of displacement.

The youths urged the U.N. Forum to support the demilitarization of Hawaii and the Pacific, and investigate the environmental crisis, including the ongoing water contamination at Red Hills.

Further, the youths urged the U.N. to recognize that the exploitation of youths, especially young girls, is the consequence of social economic inequalities and is exacerbated by the military presence.

"The youth of Hawaii stand with Indigenous and occupied people across the globe in asserting our collective rights to shape our destiny and preserve our identity."

With the goal of ecological stewardship, self determination and shared partnership, Hawaiian youths said, "We implore this forum to transition from support to action."

Indigenous Youth, Mekong Delta, describing Vietnam's imprisonment of human rights defenders. Screenshot by Censored News.

"We are not ethnic minorities. We are indigenous. We will not be silenced, as we continue to enunciate our voices on the local and international platforms to bring light to the discrimination that we as indigenous peoples face," Emily Thanh Hang, Khmer-Krom Youth told the U.N. Permanent Forum, speaking on behalf of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation on the second day.

She spoke during the discussion on the theme “Enhancing Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination in the context of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, emphasizing the voices of Indigenous youth KhmerKrom.

"You can try to bind us, but you can never take away our minds," she said, pointing out the unjust imprisonment of elders, which is now depriving the youths of wisdom and knowledge. Human rights defenders are being sentenced to prison, in violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Calling on the U.N. Permanent Forum to continue to empower youths, she urged the United Nations to continue to encourage hope in the face of fear.

Khmer-Krom people have been living on their ancestral land in the Mekong Delta for thousands of years. The government of Vietnam has not recognized the Khmer-Krom as Indigenous Peoples but instead labels them as the Khmer Ethnic Minority.

Inuit Circumpolar Council Youths. Screenshot by Censored News.

Inuit youth members of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, speaking at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, said, "Our ancestors fought to obtain our rights." Speaking on the challenges of colonization and marginalized communities, Inuit said the world must respect Inuit's inherent relationship with nature.



Endorsed by ILC's Indigenous People's Global Platform, Chepkitale Indigenous People Development Project (CIPDP), Red de Jóvenes Indígenas de Latinoamérica y el Caribe (RIJ), Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), AZUL, and Ogeik Peoples' Development Program.

Item 3 Discussion on the theme “Enhancing Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination in the context of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: emphasizing the voices of Indigenous youth”

Thank you Chair,

I have the pleasure to deliver this statement in the name of the Platform of Indigenous Peoples and the Youth Advisory Group of the International Land Coalition.

We express our gratitude to the Forum for recognizing the importance of Indigenous youth in this year’s theme. It’s vital to acknowledge the intrinsic link between the self-determination of Indigenous Peoples and our rights to our lands and territories and the preservation of our way of life.

As Indigenous youth, we inherit a sacred duty to protect our Mother Earth. We do so out of respect for our Elders, our respect and value of life on Earth. Many of us serve as environmental human rights defenders, bravely standing up for our ancestral lands and natural resources. However, we often face reprisals and intimidation for our advocacy efforts.

Our lands hold profound significance beyond their geographical boundaries. They represent our economic independence, our cultural heritage, the preservation of our Indigenous Knowledge, and our spiritual connection to Mother Earth.

For Indigenous youth, safeguarding our lands is not just a responsibility but a calling—a vital role in conserving biodiversity and combating climate change. Yet, systemic barriers hinder our meaningful engagement in these critical endeavors, particularly at the international level.


Establish an Indigenous Youth Advisory to provide guidance to UNPFII members on issues relevant to Indigenous youth.

Create a program addressing Land Rights of Indigenous Youth. This Program should address the challenges and exposure of violence, damage and trauma stemming from the loss of biodiversity in our land and territories.

Designate the theme of the next UNPFII session as "Indigenous Environmental Human Rights Defenders," with a specific emphasis on Indigenous youth and women defenders.

Let us empower Indigenous youth, amplify their voices, and honor their invaluable contributions to protecting our planet. Together, we can build a future where Indigenous knowledge and stewardship are celebrated and respected.

Thank you and jallalla.


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Copyright Brenda Norrell, Censored News

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