Case of Maya Kaqchikel Indigenous Community of Sumpango v. Guatemala

From Nicole Friederichs:

Suffolk Law’s Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples Clinic secures victory for indigenous communities in Guatemala.

On Friday, December 17, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of indigenous communities in Guatemala in the Case of Maya Kaqchikel indigenous community of Sumpango, et al. v. Guatemala. Suffolk University Law School’s Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples Clinic has been the legal representative of the four named indigenous communities in this case since 2012.

The Court ruled that the State of Guatemala violated the indigenous communities’ rights to freedom of expression and thought, culture, and non-discrimination by promoting a regulatory framework which prevented indigenous peoples from accessing radio frequencies to develop and operate community radio stations. The Inter-American Court ordered Guatemala to (1) adopt legislative and regulatory measures to ensure for the recognition of community radio, (2) reserve indigenous community radio as part of the radio spectrum and (3) to halt all government raids of existing indigenous community radio. This court victory culminates decades of advocacy by indigenous communities in Guatemala and indigenous organizations such as Cultural Survival, one of the petitioners in the case.  

What is of particular significance is the Court’s recognition of indigenous peoples’ right to operate their own media, and the relationship of this right to freedom of expression, culture, self-determination, and non-discrimination. This is the first known international case to recognize this right and its recognition by the Inter-American Court should influence how other judicial and human rights bodies interpret and promote this right to media under the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The legal team was led by Nicole Friederichs, Director of Suffolk’s Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples Clinic, along with Suffolk Law Adjunct Prof. Amy Van Zyl-Chavarro. Suffolk Law Prof. Lorie Graham submitted expert testimony, on which the Court relied in its analysis of indigenous peoples’ right to media. Nicole Friederichs noted, “This decision is a victory not only for indigenous communities in Guatemala, but also for indigenous peoples throughout this hemisphere in protecting their rights to freedom of expression and culture and promoting pluralism in media.”



John Minode’e Petoskey on Indigenous Traditional Knowledge Protection

John Minode’e Petoskey has published “International Traditional Knowledge Protection and Indigenous Self Determination” in UCLA Law School’s Indigenous Peoples’ Journal of Law, Culture & Resistance.

An excerpt:

In February 2019, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) issued a “Proposal For a Study by the WIPO Secretariat on Existing Sui Generis Systems For the Protection of Traditional Knowl- edge in WIPO Member States.” This effort is a part of the organization’s ongoing endeavors to assist indigenous people in protecting their Traditional Knowledge (TK) from misappropriation and outright theft. This Comment will answer WIPO’s call by discussing history of indigenous TK in four countries and how the Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA) can offer a viable model for TK protection in light of this history.

Project to Implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the United States

From CU and NARF:

The University of Colorado American Indian Law Program and Native American Rights Fund have teamed up on a Project to Implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the United States. Visit our new website ( for informational materials and upcoming interactive sessions to advance human rights in Indian Country. Among other things, the site features our 2020 Project Report and material on the applicability of the Declaration in various subject matters, with new information being added on a daily basis. This summer we will work with Professor Angela R. Riley’s Native Nations Law and Policy Center at UCLA School of Law to develop a Tribal Implementation Toolkit, and hope to collaborate with other institutions going forward! We’d love to hear from you.

CU/NARF Conference Pics

Kristen Carpenter

Dean James Anaya

John Echohawk

Heather Whiteman Runs Him, Dalee Sambo Dorough, Nathaniel Brown

Kristen Carpenter, James Anaya, Steven Moore, Greg Johnson

Rob Williams

Charles Wilkinson, Rebecca Tsosie, Kristen Carpenter

Erika Yamada, Alexey Tsykatev, Cristina Coc, Tracey Whare, Kunihiko Yoshida

Heather Whiteman Runs Him, Greg Bigler, Wenona Singel, Angela Riley, Carla Fredericks

Statement from the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on Child Separation at the Border


The United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples joins the concern expressed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and others regarding the situation of families, children, and individuals being detained in the United States of America at its southern border with Mexico. We call on the United States immediately to reunite children, parents, and caregivers that have been separated to date, and to ensure their basic human rights to family, safety, and security.

In addition, the Expert Mechanism calls attention to the particular impact of the United States’ practices regarding international border detentions and prosecutions on indigenous peoples. Many of the individuals now being stopped at the border are of indigenous origin, including Kekchi, Tzutujil, Kacqchikel, and Mam-speakers and other Maya from Guatemala, as well as indigenous peoples from Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico, and other countries. In many instances, they are fleeing situations of economic, social, and political unrest in their homelands where they have been denied rights to self-determination and territory, and have faced discrimination and violence.

The Expert Mechanism expresses particular concern regarding the vulnerability of indigenous children. Many countries, including the United States, have a long history of forced removal of indigenous children from their families, a practice that is now universally condemned by the human rights communities and by federal law in the U.S. because of the trauma it causes to children, their families, and their communities.

More broadly, indigenous peoples, whether migrants or not, have rights under international
instruments including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, supported by 148 nations across the world, including the United States. These include the right to maintain indigenous cultural identity, to be free from forced family separation, to speak their languages (and have translation services), to be free from discrimination and violence, and indeed to migrate. In some instances current international borders cross indigenous peoples’ homelands, including in the case of the Yaqui and Tohono O’odham people who have territory and family members on both side of the Mexico border. We call on the United States to recognize the particular situation of indigenous peoples in its border practices and policies and to uphold the rights and responsibilities set forth in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Also, here is Mark Trahant’s piece, our previous post with NAICJA’s statement, and NCJFCJ’s statement (which went out on our Twitter feed but not here).