October 25, 2002
|UN reaffirms indigenous role in
concerted opposition from the United States, indigenous delegates to
environmental summit in South Africa preserved the status they achieved
first such conference in 1992, according to summit participant Tom
did get the declaration of indigenous rights included in the Political
Declaration [on Sustainable Development]," said Goldtooth, director of
Bemidji, Minnesota-based Indigenous Environmental Network. "There were
commitments made by all countries, including the United States."
the final draft from the Johannesburg summit does not specifically
indigenous peoples, it reaffirms their consultative status recognized
at the original
Earth Summit held 10 years earlier in Rio de Janeiro. Goldtooth said an
exhausted U.S. delegation failed to intervene against language in the
declaration which commits UN member nations to "effective
of Agenda 21."
relevant section of Agenda 21 states: "Indigenous people and their
communties and other local communities have a vital role in
management and development because of their knowledge and traditional
practices. States should recognize and duly support their identity,
interests and enable their effective participation in the achievement
Goldtooth said the State Department resisted virtually every
proposal brought to the table, forcing the scaling back by nearly half
modest proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 10% by the year
"They said they had to reduce the goal to 5.7% to avoid a global
collapse," he said.
said the U.S. insists that Natives have no collective rights at the
international level--only individual rights under domestic law. Yet
asserting that it represents its indigenous peoples as citizens, the
contradictorily rejects sincere dialogue with Native American
said 'we're not accountable to you. We're accountable to the industries
Congress,'" said Goldtooth.
IEN director said indigenous peoples are on the frontlines of a battle
future of life on earth, pointing to declining as well as deteriorating
supplies across the world. However, Goldtooth said Natives must
reservations independently of tribal administrations.
dealing with 500 dumping proposals in Indian Country, coming to our
highly toxic wastes. The IEN was formed because our leaders were
look at these activities as economic development opportunities. When we
with the issue of toxic wastes, we're also dealing with the issues of
decolonization, we're dealing with internalized oppression," said
the indigenous peoples of the southern rainforests, the IEN is seeking
"put a human face" on the ecological movement by making the
connection between human rights and the environment, Goldtooth said.
environmental activist said he found a number of allies among the
Africa, which he said has seen a signficant emergence of indigenous