U.S. found in violation of Native Americans rights

Monday, March 13, 2006

Yucca Mountain, a sacred mountains and burial ground planned to be US first long-term geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel

A UN (UNCHR) committee on the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) found the the US government in violation of Native Americans' land rights and the international anti-racism convention. The committee of 18 independent experts said in a press release that it had received credible information alleging that Western Shoshone peoples were being denied their traditional right to land. The decision details US actions against the Western Shoshone and calls upon the United States to immediately:

  • Respect and protect the human rights of the Western Shoshone peoples.
  • Initiate a dialogue with the representatives of the Western Shoshone peoples in order to find a solution acceptable to them, and which complies with their rights.
  • Adopt the following measures until a final decision or settlement is reached on the status, use and occupation of Western Shoshone ancestral lands in accordance with due process of law and US obligations under the Convention.
  • Freeze all efforts to privatize Western Shoshone ancestral lands for transfer to multinational extractive industries and energy developers.
  • Desist from all activities planned and/or conducted on Western Shoshone ancestral lands.
  • Stop imposing grazing fees, livestock impoundments, and hunting, fishing and gathering restrictions; and rescind all notices already given.
Flag of the United Nations

Bernice Lalo, Western Shoshone delegate, said, "The mines are polluting our waters, destroying hot springs and exploding sacred mountains—our burials along with them—attempting to erase our signature on the land. We are coerced and threatened by mining and Federal agencies when we seek to continue spiritual prayers for traditional food or medicine on Shoshone land." Mr. Lalo continued, "We feel the decision will be helpful by opening the door. We will continue this struggle to give our children a better chance."

Joe Kennedy, a Western Shoshone, said, "We have rights to protect our homelands and stop the destruction of our land, water, and air by the abuses of the United States government and the multinational corporations. He said, "The situation is outrageous, and we're glad the United Nations Committee agrees with us."

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Oxfam logo

Laura Inouye, Oxfam America, said, "This is a tremendous victory for the Shoshone people; the UN decision acknowledges the U.S. government's violations of Shoshone civil, political, economic, and cultural rights." Inouye concluded, "Hopefully, they will now be granted the justice that the US government has denied them for years." Oxfam America is a human rights organizaition which has backed the Western Shoshone.

A UN official said, according to the AP, that the US mission to the UN in Geneva had no immediate response to the decision.

The Western Shoshones' rights to the land, 60 million acres stretching across Nevada, Idaho, Utah and Califonia, were recognized by the US under the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley, which was signed by President Ulysses S. Grant a few years later. It was questioned by the US Supreme Court, 1979; the land was labeled 'government trusteeship' and much was claimed as federal territory. President Bush signed a bill in July 2004 that gave approval to distributing more than $145 million as compensation after the Shoshones voted to accept the distribution in a disputed election.

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid (D. Nevada) and a proponent of the bill, said "The tribe twice has voted decisively in favor of the distribution."

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