August 9 is the United Nations’ International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, and the 2013 theme of building alliances has not gone unnoticed.
One issue that is uniting tribes on both sides of the 49th parallel is, south of it, the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and north, the development of the oil sands in Alberta, the source of the oil that would be transported through it. This theme was prominent in protests over the past week as the Nez Perce stood up against mega-loads being transported through their territory to the oil sands.
“Even if we were supportive of mega-loads in the wilderness corridor, we oppose the final use of the product,” said Tribal President Silas Whitman, one of about 30 protesters arrested over the course of the past week. “We tie this together with the [Keystone] XL pipeline. We want to help our brothers and sisters in the First Nations of Canada, and the Sioux Nation and the Oklahoma and Nebraska tribes.”
On a more local note, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo highlighted once again the need for Canada to honor the treaties it has struck with First Nations since contact. In the wake of revelations that aboriginals had been used for experiments in nutrition and tuberculosis vaccines, he issued a statement on Friday urging respect once again.
“This year’s theme for the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is one that resonates strongly for Indigenous peoples and nations in Canada,” Atleo said. “Treaties and treaty making are the foundation on which this country was built. It is time for Canada to work with First Nations to honor its promises and give life to our inherent Indigenous and Treaty rights. These rights are acknowledged and affirmed in Canada’s own constitution and articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which compels both states and Indigenous peoples to work together in mutual partnership and respect on any activities that affect our lands, our lives and our people based on the standard of free, prior and informed consent.”
The United Nations held events to commemorate, and rowers who had traveled by canoe down the Hudson River arrived at Pier 96 at 57th Street in New York City at 10 a.m., the culmination of the journey commemorating the Two Row Wampum Treaty, signed 400 years ago by the Dutch and the Haudenosaunee. They traveleled for hundreds of miles, some paddling by river and some riding horseback, to commemorate the anniversary of the 1613 signing.
“The theme aims to highlight the importance of honoring arrangements between States, their citizens and indigenous peoples that were designed to recognize indigenous peoples' rights to their lands and establish a framework for living in proximity and entering into economic relationships,” the United Nations said in a statement about the day. “Agreements also outline a political vision of different sovereign peoples living together on the same land, according to the principles of friendship, cooperation and peace.”
James Anaya, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, urged governments worldwide to respect treaties and Indigenous Peoples rights.
“Indigenous peoples around the world face significant challenges that are related to widespread historical wrongs, including broken treaties and acts of oppression and misguided government policies, that today manifest themselves in disadvantages and impediments to the exercise of their individual and collective rights,” he said in a statement. “In no instance should new treaties or agreements fall below or undermine the standards set forth in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples or established in other international sources. Broken treaties must become a thing of the past.”