UN Special Rapporteur Investigates Epidemic of Violence Against Indian Women in the United States

CHEROKEE, N.C. — At 64 years-old, Matilda Black Bear, better known as Tillie, refers to herself as a “classic case” in regards to her story of domestic violence. She was 26 years old when she entered into a relationship that turned violent. She knew after the first week that she had to get out, but it took her three years to leave.

Photo of Matilda "Tillie" Black Bear
Tillie Black Bear is Public Outreach Coordinator with the Sacred Circle National Resource Center and a long-time advocate for women's rights.

“In the ’70s there were no services for victims, let alone any laws to hold perpetrators accountable,” recalls Tillie. “I went to the police and to the judges and they didn’t know what to do with me.”
According to U.S. Department of Justice Statistics, not much has changed in nearly 40 years. Tillie’s story is shared by thousands of Native women in the United States. One out of three Native women will be raped in her lifetime, and three out of four will be physically assaulted.

These staggering statistics were presented, along with a plea for help, to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Ms. Rashida Manjoo. Manjoo visited the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Cherokee, North Carolina on Jan. 28-29, 2011. Continue reading

UN Expert to visit Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to study the epidemic of violence against Native women in the United States

Press Release from Indian Law Resource Center and the Easter Band of Cherokee Indians:

January 21, 2011

CHEROKEE, N.C. — A United Nations expert on women’s human rights is investigating why Native women face the highest rates of sexual and physical assault of any group in the United States.

Ms. Rashida Manjoo, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, will visit the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Cherokee, North Carolina on January 27-28, 2011. Manjoo will meet with tribal leaders and advocacy organizations to learn more about the epidemic of violence against Indian women and what the United States can do to safeguard the human rights of Indian women.

According to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, one out of three Native women will be raped in her lifetime, and three out of four will be physically assaulted. Indian women are stalked at a rate more than double that of any other population. These statistics are linked to legal barriers that prevent Indian nations from adequately responding to crimes.

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UN Declaration Sets New Agenda for US-Indian Relations

Op Ed by Robert T. Coulter

Today, the United States government at last officially endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and joined the international community in recognizing that American Indians and other indigenous peoples have a permanent right to exist as peoples, nations, cultures, and societies.

The United States is the last of the four countries that voted against the UN Declaration in the UN to reverse its position. This endorsement reflects the worldwide acceptance of indigenous peoples and our governments as a permanent part of the world community and the countries where we live. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the most significant development in international human rights law in decades. International human rights law now recognizes the rights of indigenous peoples as peoples, including rights of self-determination, property, and culture.

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Indian Law Resource Center Fellowship Opportunities for Summer 2011

The Indian Law Resource Center is a non-profit legal advocacy organization dedicated to providing legal advice, assistance, and representation to Indian tribes and indigenous communities throughout the Americas. We are also committed to developing new attorneys in the fields of Indian law and international human rights law.

To this end, we offer several fellowship and clerkship opportunities in both our Helena, Montana and Washington, D.C. offices. These fellowship and clerkship opportunities require a minimum eight week commitment and entail legal research and writing on major Indian rights issues related to current projects of the Indian Law Resource Center. The Lewis and Sidley Fellowships both offer a stipend of $3,000 for the term of the Fellowship. Applicants are welcome to supplement this stipend with additional financial support through their law school’s public interest programs or through other public interest scholarships.

. The John D.B. Lewis Fellowship is a competitive fellowship awarded each year to a law student who shows particular promise for a career in international indigenous human rights issues.

. The Terrance A. Sidley Fellowship is a competitive Fellowship awarded each year to a law student who shows particular promise for a career in federal Indian law and international indigenous human rights issues.

. A limited number of unpaid, competitive legal clerkships are also available. Applicants for these clerkships are encouraged to seek their own financial support through their law school’s public interest programs or through other public interest scholarships.

About the Indian Law Resource Center:

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State Department Consultations on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Tribal Leaders Consultation – July 7, 2010
1pm, Department of State, Washington, DC

Meeting with NGOs – July 8, 2010
10am, National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC

The State Department is currently reviewing the United States’ failure to endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As part of this formal review, the State Department is holding consultations to discuss the upcoming review process and receive comments from Indian and Alaska Native nations, NGOs, and individuals.

How To Participate:

Members of federally recognized tribes can participate in the July 7th Consultation either in person or by conference call. RSVP to Declaration@state.gov by July 2, 2010, and include “RSVP – July 7th Tribal Consultation” in the subject line. Please indicate if you will be attending in person or participating via conference call.

Anyone can submit written comments to the State Department by July 15, 2010

– By email to declaration@state.gov

– By mail to S/SR Global Intergovernmental Affairs, U.S. Department of State, 2201 C Street NW., Suite 1317, Washington, DC 20520.

More information on the consultations is available at the State Department website: http://www.state.gov/s/tribalconsultation/declaration/

Indian Law Resource Center among winners of $500K Gruber Foundation International Justice Prize

The Indian Law Resource Center, based in Helena, Mont., and Washington, D.C., is among three organizations to share the 2010 Gruber Justice Prize given to individuals and groups that, through the legal system, champion the rights of oppressed peoples.


Indian Country Today – d’Errico: Navajo Nation, known as an ‘Indian tribe’

Originally printed at http://www.indiancountrytoday.com/opinion/columnists/43030782.html

On April 6, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the Navajo Nation any compensation for government actions that allowed Peabody Coal to extract millions of tons of Navajo coal at low rates for 45 years. The decision raises deep issues about the meaning and continuing viability of what is known as the “trust doctrine” in federal Indian law.

The original 1964 lease established a maximum royalty rate of 37.5 cents per ton of coal. U.S. Department of Energy historical data show the average market price of coal of all kinds in 1963 was $4.55. Thus, the original royalty rate was 8.24 percent. The rate was “subject to reasonable adjustment” by the secretary of the interior on the 20th anniversary of the lease and every 10 years thereafter. DOE data show that by 1984 the 37.5 cents per ton rate yielded one to two percent of gross proceeds, far less than the original 8.24 percent.

In 1984, the area director of the BIA, pursuant to the presumed federal “trust” authority, raised the lease rate to 20 percent of gross proceeds, as requested by the Navajo Nation. Peabody filed an administrative appeal and requested the secretary of the interior to postpone decision or to rule in Peabody’s favor. Thereafter, the secretary and Peabody representatives met privately and the secretary postponed his decision. The Navajo resumed negotiations with Peabody and a rate of 12.5 percent was agreed to. The secretary approved the amended rate.

In 1993, the Navajo filed suit against the United States, alleging the secretary’s actions constituted a breach of trust. The Court of Federal Claims found the secretary had “violated the most basic common law fiduciary duties owed the Navajo Nation” by acting in Peabody’s best interests rather than those of the Navajo. That court nevertheless concluded the breach of trust did not require any compensation, because “the trust relationship necessary for our jurisdiction does not exist.”

The record of the case shows the entire leasing arrangement was premised on federal supervisory authority, the core of the so-called “trust doctrine.” Under this doctrine, the federal government asserts paramount ownership of and power over Indian lands. The Peabody lease and rates were negotiated in this framework and only became valid after the secretary’s approval.

Leaving aside, for the moment, the corruption of administrative process by the secretary’s private meeting with Peabody, the question that arises from this case is, “What does the federal trust relationship mean if it provides a presumption of authority over Indian nations but carries no responsibility to them?”

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Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Ordinary Justice


From Bozeman Daily Chronicle

‘Ordinary justice’

Corporations, churches and even canasta clubs have more rights under U.S. law than American Indian tribes, and respect for human rights and basic fairness demand this must change, says a veteran Indian lawyer and rights advocate.

“All we want is ordinary justice,” Tim Coulter, a Potawatomi Indian and director of the Indian Law Resource Center in Helena, said Friday.

Coulter, who has battled for Indian rights for 40 years and has been honored by Columbia University for his work, spoke to a crowd of about 100 attending the American Indian Law and Resistance Symposium at Montana State University.

Congress has the power to take Indian tribal lands, seize millions of dollars from Indian accounts, take over tribal governments, and even wipe out the legal existence of tribes, Coulter said.

Injustice toward Indians is deeply imbedded in U.S. law, he said. The entire legal framework of U.S. Indian law is based upon the notion that the federal government possesses “plenary powers,” which aren’t written anywhere in the U.S. Constitution, but were invented by the U.S. Supreme Court, he said. That idea has been enforced by the government for the past 200 years.

Just as the black civil rights movement of the 1960s dismantled the racist “separate but equal” laws, Indians need to dismantle the racist framework of laws that deny their rights, he argued.

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Great Falls Tribune: Legislators honor Native American women

April 12, 2009

Legislators honor Native American women

By TRAVIS COLEMAN Tribune Staff Writer

Amnesty International statistics say Native American women are nearly three times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than any other group of women in the nation. Montana legislators kept those statistics in mind last week when supporting a joint resolution honoring Montana’s Native American women by trying to stop the violence against them. The joint resolution from the state Senate and the House of Representatives passed by large margins in both chambers. The resolution asks that legislators call upon federal, state and tribal officials to take action to stop domestic and sexual violence against the more than 27,000 Native American women in Montana. According to the resolution, that will be achieved through: · Working together to understand the nature and prevalence of violence against Native American women. · Supporting access to services for Native American women. · Providing adequate resources for additional criminal justice and victim prevention and intervention services. · Ensuring that the federal government investigates and prosecutes violent crime on Indian reservations. The resolution, sponsored by Sen. Carol Juneau, D-Browning, was filed with the Secretary of State on Monday. Juneau came up with the resolution after reading Amnesty International’s “Maze of Injustice” report that detailed how sexual violence against women from tribal nations is at epidemic proportions and that survivors are frequently denied justice. “I thought it would be good to have the state of Montana become more aware of the issue,” Juneau said, adding that the resolution could encourage others to take notice of the problem. Juneau said some Native American women are “falling between the cracks and their issues are being left behind” because they don’t know where to go to get justice among federal, state, tribal and county authorities. Juneau hopes that this resolution will spur action to address these jurisdictional concerns. “I’m hoping the resolution can be used as a vehicle to create some awareness and some communication between the various jurisdictions,” she said.

Indian Country Today: Seeking justice, Latin indigenous leaders come to testify

Originally printed at http://www.indiancountrytoday.com/home/content/42323512.html

WASHINGTON – Indigenous leaders from four Latin American countries came to Washington D.C. last month to assert that their respective governments are criminalizing their right to protest, preventing them from seeking justice.

In what they called an Indigenous Diplomatic Mission, representatives from Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Chile presented testimony and documented evidence at the 134 period of sessions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. With the assistance of American co-petitioners Indian Law Resource Center, they met with members of Congress, representatives of the Obama administration and the United Nations.

The outreach is part of a related movement toward the passage of an American Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People.

But the main focus for the members of the Andean Coordinating Committee of Indigenous Organizations was getting their message to the IACHR and the international community. They say their protests are being criminalized and their people marginalized, even killed.

“We came here because we are defending our mother, Pachamama” said Miguel Palacin Quispe, chair of the CAOI and president of the National Confederation of Peruvian Communities Affected by Mining at hearings March 20.

“We are the victims of this criminalization and persecution. . for the thousands of instances of human rights violations in our territories we have requested this hearing,” Palacin Quispe said in his testimony before the IACHR, which acts as a consultative body to the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The Peruvian leader told commissioners about problems with the “extractive model” of business in Peru that has oil and other large companies engaging in “irrational exploitation,” causing “enormous damage and pollution” to indigenous territories.

“These new neighbors, the multinationals, have located their battles in our territories, and they have put us in a position where we have to defend ourselves.”

One of the Peruvian cases he brought before the commission was that of 29 indigenous activists who, after requesting a dialogue with mining company and government representatives who came to their territory without their consultation, were seized, held hostage and then tortured by the Peruvian National Police for three days in July of 2005.

For the most part, his presentation focused on more recent events.

“It is now known,” Palacin Quispe stated, “that 18 Colombian ethnicities are in danger of extinction and for them we mobilize, for them we protest and there is no mechanism for dealing with this. . we have become the objects of assassination, torture and imprisonment.”

“In many areas, they are preventing us from our constitutional right to mobilize and protest; and the strategy of the state is now to change laws. . so they criminalize dissidence, and in Chile, against the Mapuche, they use the anti-terrorist law. They also seek to privatize public land and along with this they are increasing the military presence in our territories.”

For Juan Edgardo Pai, an Awa leader from Colombia and one of the presenters at the hearing, the issue of militarization is very important.

“The militarization of our territory has brought terrible problems,” Pai stated in a phone interview with Indian Country Today after his testimony at the commission. He referred to the recent massacre of 27 Awa by the FARC and to other similar situations. “When there are armed conflicts there are many people displaced and many Awa have been killed by their anti-personnel mines.

“Our people are still trapped by some of those mines. The fumigations have also caused death; many of our children have been killed by the poisoning.”

Pai said the Colombian government has done nothing to help the displaced and suffering members of his community. He pointed to the recent effort to find some of the victims of the latest massacre as an example of Awa frustration with the government.

“I came here not only because of the massacre,” Pai recounted, “but for the politics of [Colombian President] Uribe who doesn’t respond to our needs and we have seen so many violations of our rights. . we told them about the paramilitaries threatening us also and they have done nothing.

“We have been forgotten by the Colombian government.”

While testimony at the hearings was tragic, there were some positive results to the visit, according to ILRC attorney Leonardo Crippa. He asserted that IACHR Commissioner Victor Abramovich, special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, was “quite interested in following up on the testimony. … and for a visit by him to Colombia along with the UN Special Rapporteur.”

“Another request we felt would get follow up was on our request for the commission to do a comparative analysis of the 11 Peruvian decrees adopted by the Peruvian government in 2007, known as the Forest Laws, with the American Convention on Human Rights to determine if this domestic legislation is in accordance with the international standards concerning human rights.”

Crippa pointed out that these same laws are being used to imprison indigenous activists who have lead protests in Peru and that issue, along with one of the situations in Colombia, are reasons that there should be a separate American Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People.

“This regional declaration is needed to reflect the regional particularities of the region, especially those ones that were not reflected in the UN Declaration.”

In his meeting with Department of State officials, Palacin Quispe addressed the same theme.

“In that meeting we stated that if it’s true that the Obama administration signifies a change in U.S. policy, their relevant officials should participate in the next OAS discussion of the Project on the American Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to unblock the process so that this international instrument be finally adopted,” he wrote in a CAOI statement.

In a statement summarizing the hearings, the IACHR urged passage of the American Declaration, as well as decrying the situations that compelled the indigenous leaders to leave their own countries to seek justice.

“The IACHR condemns the murders of indigenous people carried out by private and state agents, and reiterates its concern over the frequency of social conflicts and acts of violence associated with disputes over the lands, territories and natural resources of indigenous peoples. These situations of conflict normally arise because the states do not adequately guarantee the protection of indigenous territories; nor do they guarantee indigenous peoples the right to participate in decisions concerning the activities that affect their rights.”

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