“Can International Law Support Changes to Federal Indian Policy?” 8AM-12PM, 19 April 2013

8:45AM: I have travelled to Phoenix, Arizona, to attend this conference put on by the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.  The planning spans two years and is most unconventional.  I will summarize bits of information as the conference flows along.

http://law.asu.edu/undrip2013 – archived web-feed.

http://conferences.asucollegeoflaw.com/drip/conference-materials/ – materials and documents.

8:53AM: Dr. Julian Burger, based in London is first up to speak to the conference, which is also streamed online, with many people from around the world watching.

In 1992-1993 Indigenous Peoples had “broken through” the United Nations bureaucracy and were able to make contributions and influence the functions of the many apparatus agencies, after 30 or so years of petitioning the center of bureaucracy in Geneva.

The Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples experienced tough negotiations going through the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, with many governments wholly opposing the draft.

There are many people who are outside Indigenous populations who are interested in the content of the declaration.

The concept of “self-determination” seems to be the centerpiece strategy utilized by many Indigenous groups around the world.  The concept could be of global use, not to just Indigenous populations.

9:22AM: Panel moderated by Professor Leo Killsback (Native American Studies at ASU) – ‘UNDRIP: A brief history’.

9:27AM: Kenneth Deer, Secretary of Six Nations, of the community of Kahnawake is first up to speak.

The biggest challenge was delineating the rights of Minorities and the rights of Indigenous Peoples while petitioning the UN WGIP.

Article Three – the Right to Self-Determination was the last article passed in the Draft, and was the most contentious.

The member states of the UN are against the term “peoples” – hence the agencies avoid the use of the term: Working Group on Indigenous Populations, Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Decade of Indigenous People.  “Peoples” implies the right to self-determination.

There is a big difference between Geneva and New York.  Geneva is more academic, in New York the atmosphere is political.

9:52AM: Andrea Carmen of the Yaqui Nation next up to speak, also Executive Director of the International Indian Treaty Council.

1996 UN Inter-Sessional Working Group on the UN Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the first instance and standard established for the complete involvement of Indigenous Peoples within the UN apparatus agencies.

The Collective Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the most important concept of UNDRIP.  As differentiated by individual human rights.

In many countries in the world the right to lands are not given to Indigenous Peoples.

Giving priority to the right of consent, over the right of consultation.

10:09AM: Alan Parker last to speak for the panel, citizen of the Chippewa Cree of Rocky Boy, Montana.

Participant in an International Treaty Agreement – the United League of Indigenous Nations Treaty Agreement of 2007.  Involves Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Rim, and of the four member-states that voted against UNDRIP in 2007.

Representatives at the table of the ULINTA were empowered by their own peoples to negotiate the treaty.


10:19AM: Questions from the attendees moderated by Leo Killsback.

Legally-binding UNDRIP entails a right-to-sue provision.  Member-states of the UN would fight to protect the sovereign immunity and would not allow for UNDRIP to be legally-binding.

NCAI is petitioning the White House for a study on the implementation UNDRIP.

10:48AM: After 15 minute break, a panel moderated by Mr. Aaron Fellmeth, and made up of Professor Siegfried Wiessner, and Dr. Joshua Cooper Director of the Hawai’i Institute of Human Rights, and Walter Echo-Hawk, tribal judge and legal advocate, author of “In the Courts of the Conqueror” (2012).

10:55AM: Professor Wiessner speaks to the conference.

Chair of the International Law Association Sofia Conference (2012) – Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Professor Wiessner and Professor Lorie Graham the only participants from the US amongst others from around the world.

75th Conference of the International Law Association passed Resolution No. 5/2012 – Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

11:17AM: Dr. Joshua Cooper speaks to the conference.

Grassroots activist for UNDRIP implementation and wider recognition in the UN system.

11:33AM: Walter Echo-Hawk speaks to the conference.

Federal Indian Law is the old framework.  The new framework is Human Rights.  “We have advanced this as far as we can in this current framework…we need to look to a new framework.  The new lifeline is this Human Rights framework.”

There are many gaps between Federal Indian law and UNDRIP.  If the gaps can be filled, Federal Indian law would be reversed, and would reaffirm the body of law surrounding Federal Indian law.

No national plan in the US for implementation.

“We have to begin a national discourse, a public conversation.  It is up to us to educate ourselves and be prepared to do that.”

11:54AM: Questions moderated by Mr. Aaron Fellmeth.

Question for Dr. Cooper concerning the history and the implementation of UNDRIP in Hawai’i.

Question taken by Walter Echo-Hawk on strategies for implementation.

12:04PM: Recessed for lunch.

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