Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Consulting Indigenous Peoples on a Land Sale in South Dakota

James Anaya is a Regents Professor and the James J. Lenoir Professor of Human Rights Law and Policy at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law (USA), where he teaches and writes in the areas of international human rights, constitutional law, and issues concerning indigenous peoples. He is also a United Nations independent expert has called on the United States Government and authorities in the state of South Dakota to start consultations with indigenous people on a land sale that will affect a site of spiritual significance to them.   

Five tracts of land in the Black Hills area in South Dakota lie within a site sacred to the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota peoples, Professor Anaya said in a news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).   According to Professor Anaya, the indigenous communities are concerned that the sale of the land will result in restrictions to their access and the use of the land for ceremonial purposes. They are also concerned that it may lead to a road development project that would diminish the cultural and spiritual integrity of their sacred site.        

In 1868, the United States Government signed the Treaty of Fort Laramie with these indigenous groups which reserved their rights to the Black Hills. However, the discovery of gold in the area led to a Congressional Act in 1877 that passed ownership of the Black Hills to the US. The Lakota, Dakota and Nakota peoples have since then sought to recover the Black Hills.  “The views and concerns of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota peoples need to be considered regarding any private or Government activity that would affect their right to continue to maintain their traditional cultural and ceremonial practices associated with Pe’ Sla,” Professor Anaya stressed.  He also stated that protecting the rights of indigenous peoples to access culturally and spiritually significant areas for them is one of the main issues that was brought to his attention during his official visit to the country three months ago.    

The Special Rapporteur is scheduled to present an official report to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council on his visit in the upcoming weeks. Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes. 

(mew) (adapted from a UN Press Release)


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