Left out is also is the disaster in our relations with the American Indians with who we broke treaties with, stole their land and subjected them to live in impoverished conditions within a concentration camp without locks.
~Russell Means, Chief Facilitator, Republic of Lakotah
19 March 2010
On March 13, China’s Information Office of the State Council published a report titled, “The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2009.”
This document was clearly intended as a rebuttal to the annual US State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009, released two days earlier.
The Chinese report quite legitimately notes that the US government “releases Country Reports on Human Rights Practices year after year to accuse other countries, and takes human rights as a political instrument to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, defame other nations’ image and seek its own strategic interests. This fully exposes its double standards on the human rights issue…”
Delivering the US government a well-deserved dose of its own medicine does not, of course, absolve the Chinese regime of its own gross violations of human rights. It rules autocratically over 1.3 billion people, most of them desperately poor peasants and super-exploited workers.
That being said, the Chinese report is an eye-opening document—factual, sober, even understated, drawn entirely from public government and media sources in the United States, with each item carefully documented. It presents a picture of 21st century America as much of the world sees it, one which is in sharp contrast to the official mythology and American media propaganda.
Not surprisingly, the report went unmentioned in the US mass media.
The 14-page report is divided into six major sections: Life, Property and Personal Security; Civil and Political Rights; Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Racial Discrimination; Rights of Women and Children; US Violations of Human Rights Against Other Nations. The cumulative picture is one of a society in deep and worsening social crisis.
A few of the facts and figures cited on violence and police repression in the United States:
• Each year, 30,000 people die in gun-related incidents.
• There were 14,180 murders last year.
• In the first ten months of 2009, 45 people were killed by police use of tasers, bringing the total for the decade to 389.
• Last year, 315 police officers in New York City were subject to internal supervision due to “unrestrained use of violence.”
• 7.3 million Americans were under the authority of the correctional system, more than in any other country.
• An estimated 60,000 prisoners were raped while in custody last year.
On democratic rights, the report notes the pervasive government spying on citizens, authorized under the 2001 Patriot Act, extensive surveillance of the Internet by the National Security Agency, and police harassment of anti-globalization demonstrators in Pittsburgh during last year’s G-20 summit. Pointing to the hypocrisy of US government “human rights” rhetoric, the authors observe, “the same conduct in other countries would be called human rights violations, whereas in the United States it was called necessary crime control.”
The report only skims the surface on the socioeconomic crisis in the United States, noting record levels of unemployment, poverty, hunger and homelessness, as well as 46.3 million people without health insurance. It does offer a few facts rarely discussed in the US media:
• 712 bodies were cremated at public expense in the city of Los Angeles last year, because the families were too poor to pay for a burial.
• There were 5,657 workplace deaths recorded in 2007, the last year for which a tally is available, a rate of 17 deaths per day (not a single employer was criminally charged for any of these deaths).
• Some 2,266 veterans died as a consequence of lack of health insurance in 2008, 14 times the military death toll in Afghanistan that year.
The report presents evidence of pervasive racial discrimination against blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans, the most oppressed sections of the US working class, including a record number of racial discrimination claims over hiring practices, more than 32,000. It also notes the rising number of incidents of discrimination or violence against Muslims, and the detention of 300,000 “illegal” immigrants each year, with more than 30,000 immigrants in US detention facilities every day of the year.
It notes that the state of California imposed life sentences on 18 times more black defendants than white, and that in 2008, when New York City police fired their weapons, 75 percent of the targets were black, 22 percent Hispanic and only 3 percent white.
The report refers to the well-known reality of unequal pay for women, with median female income only 77 percent that of male income in 2008, down from 78 percent in 2007. According to the report, 70 percent of working-age women have no health insurance, or inadequate coverage, high medical bills or high health-related debt.
Children bear a disproportionate burden of economic hardship, with 16.7 million children not having enough food at some time during 2008, and 3.5 million children under five facing hunger or malnutrition, 17 percent of the total. Child hunger is combined with the malignant phenomenon of rampant child labor in agriculture: some 400,000 child farm workers pick America’s crops. The US also leads the world in imprisoning children and juveniles, and is the only country that does not offer parole to juvenile offenders.
US foreign policy comes in for justifiable criticism as well. A country with so many poor and hungry people accounts for 42 percent of the world’s total military spending, a colossal $607 billion, as well as the world’s largest foreign arms sales, $37.8 billion in 2008, up nearly 50 percent from the previous year.
The Chinese report notes the documented torture of prisoners in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, the worldwide US network of military bases, the US blockade of Cuba (opposed by the UN General Assembly by a vote of 187 to 3), and the systematic US spying around the world, utilizing the NSA’s “ECHELON” interception system, as well as the US monopoly control over Internet route servers.
The report also points out the deliberate US flouting of international human rights covenants. Washington has either signed but not ratified or refused to sign four major UN covenants: on economic, social and cultural rights; on the rights of women; on the rights of people with disabilities; and on the rights of indigenous peoples.
The report does not discuss the source of the malignant social conditions in the United States—nor should that be expected, since that would require an explanation of the causal connection between poverty, repression and discrimination and the operations of the capitalist profit system, something that Beijing is hardly likely to undertake.
The preceding was first published on Indybay
by Andreas Knudsen
Reprinted from Indigenous Affairs, January/February/March 1996. Published by the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs.
Native communities, primarily in the western US, have been chronically exposed to low doses of radiation for over forty years. This exposure derives from the many nuclear activities on indigenous lands such as uranium mining and milling, uranium conversion and enrichment, and testing of nuclear weapons. More than one half of all US uranium deposits lie under reservation land. In the past, the Secretary of the Interior was authorized to lease tribal mineral resources for national defense purposes. In return for mining rights, the large energy consortiums have historically paid royalty fees and employed Indians in substandard working conditions.
Although native communities bear a disproportionate burden of risk from those activities compared to the general public, they are in many ways the least equipped communities to respond appropriately. Information on exposures and their health effects is often inadequate, incomplete, inaccessible and incomprehensible. The environmental consequences of uranium mining, atomic bomb testing and production, and radioactive waste disposal on or near reservation lands have often been disastrous. Estimates conclude that over 22,000,000 tons of mine tailings or waste by-products have been left at 24 locations in nine western states since the 1950s and that 220 acres of tailings have contaminated the Four Corners region alone. This article looks at the cases of two nations–the Western Shoshone and the Pauite-Shoshone of Ft. McDermitt.
The Western Shoshone Nation
Because of the long-term use of the Nevada Test Site (NTS), which is located on traditional Shoshone land, the Western Shoshone nation has become known as the most bombed nation on earth. The 928 American and 19 British nuclear explosions in Newe Sogobia have been classified by the Western Shoshone National Council (WSNC) as bombs rather than “tests.” The purpose of a bomb is to destroy while the idea of a test is to introduce something new. About 1,350 square miles of their total territory of about 43,000 square miles has been destroyed by hundreds of craters and tunnels, which are uncontrolled underground nuclear waste dumps, by nuclear bombs since 1951 when the bombing began. But no treaty, agreement, vote or sale exists that give the US permission to explode nuclear bombs on or under the Western Shoshone Nation. The Treaty of Ruby Valley of 1863, signed by representatives of the US and the Western Shoshone and ratified by the US Senate in 1866 and confirmed by President Grant in 1869, recognized Shoshone territorial sovereignty. The treaty did not transfer ownership rights and is till in effect. But through a variety of ethically and legally dubious methods, land was taken from the reservation. US authorities in the form of the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Park Service, Fish and Wildlife, Atomic Energy Commission, Department of Defense, Department of Transportation, etc., control now approximately 90 per cent of the Shoshone land.
Environmental monitoring reports for the NTS from the 1950s until 1991 document substantial low level releases of radioactive iodine, strontium, cesium, plutonium and noble gases that have contaminated lands in Nevada and Utah. The Western Shoshone reservations, Duckwater and Ely are within a fifty-mile radius of the NTS and were more heavily contaminated. Residents reported unusual animal deaths, hair loss and gardens turning black. The health of the population still remains at high risk from cancers and birth defects. Despite these facts, the US government has now designated an area of the Western Shoshone Nation, known as Yucca Mountain, to become the final repository for the high level nuclear waste from the US nuclear industry. The Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that its scientific investigation of the site will be concluded by 2001, at a cost of $6.3 billion (year-of-expenditure dollars) and a repository could be opened by 2010. The DOE is no longer looking for another site. Although the tribe is very concerned about observed health and environmental effects, there are no official health studies under way, no offers to remedy environmental pollution, no programs for early detection of disease or disease surveillance in place.
In order to collect data on the effects of nuclear fallout from the NTS, WSNC started its own project in 1994. The main goal of the Western Shoshone Health Project is to provide data on the state of the land, soil, water, plants as well as the health of the people. This project is part of the Native American Health Network. Various organizations such as the Childhood Cancer Research Institute (CCRI) and Native Americans for a Clean Environment (NACE) work together in that network. They targeted the Western Shoshone and Paiute communities in the Great Basin among their highest priorities.
The overarching goal of the project is to begin proactive steps to correct the imbalance of risk by fostering a better understanding of radiation health issues among members of Native American communities to meet growing concerns about past and ongoing exposures. The communities will be empowered to obtain appropriate health protection and community controls for the future. A part of the project is the Training of Trainers program. This is a comprehensive, integrated program of training and technical assistance for the purpose of empowering native people to protect their communities and nations by arming them with an understanding of critical social and technical radiation issues directly affecting their health and environment. The program will create a unique partnership between researchers, health care providers and native communities by promoting a combination of indigenous thinking coupled with technical skills. The community trainers will take technical information, processes and techniques and translate them into a cost effective approach for the communities by developing education modules. The modules will be utilized by the community trainers for educating community members on the issues. Beyond this, the general research goal will be to use existing data resources to compile important information on off-site exposures for the communities, including those exposures to and from specific environmental or food chain pathways. Health scientists from the Center for Technology, Environment and Development (CENTED) at Clark University, Worcester, MA, are maintaining a dialogue with the community as their research is carried out so that they may benefit from local knowledge and experiences. For example, the Western Shoshones have indicated that mule deer, sheep, rabbits and pine nuts are main sources of subsistence for their people. As such, research on the up-take of radionuclides to these animals and roots are of much interest to them. They also mentioned several nuclear tests that they were particularly concerned about. Such community input will guide the scientists’ research, help to prioritize data collection and lead them to investigate other related issues of concern.
The Issue of the Ft. McDermitt Pauite-Shoshone—Background
The Quinn River Band of the northern Pauite originally inhabited the lands of the current Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation. As a result of the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934, the members of the tribe adopted a Constitution and Federal Corporate Charter, and became the federally recognized Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe. As for many other tribes, the adopting of an IRA Constitution and Corporate Charter was to terminate the Tribe’s traditional form of government and dispute resolution. It also established a republican form of government and court system. The IRA also imposed tribal laws codified in the Tribe’s constitution and federal Corporate Charter which tribal and federal officials neither take into consideration in their deliberations nor abide by. Furthermore, the IRA allowed the federal government more authority in intra- and intertribal affairs.
The tribe originally comprised a much larger land base, but a large part was taken away by dubious methods. Eventually, a Land Claims Commission was established to dictate monetary settlements, which many tribal members accepted. However, as many as two or three dozen of the more traditional families would not accept any monetary compensation, believing that by doing so they would be relinquishing their inherent rights as indigenous peoples. But because they did not accept the money, they did not become enrolled tribal members. At the reservation there are now approximately 400 enrolled members and about 300 unenrolled.
The MRS Localization Process
Because of the desperate economic situation at Ft. McDermitt reservation, the Tribal Council was willing to participate. Participation in that process means access to $100,000 in the first phase and $200,000 in the Phase II-A for feasibility studies and education.
Research for a Monitored Retrievable Storage (MRS) for nuclear fuel has a very high priority for the DOE. The 23,681 MT (metric tons) of nuclear fuel in 1992 and its growth is a pressing problem. The Nuclear Waste Negotiator (NWN), a federal agency working closely with the DOE, but accountable only to the President and Congress, has to find one or even more sites where the radioactive material can be deposited for the next 30 or 40 years before final storage, possibly at Yucca Mountain Repository.
NWN’s first attempt to establish an MRS in Tennessee failed because of the opposition of the State, the Governor and inhabitants. That is why NWN is now looking for sovereign volunteers. In May of 1991, the NWN sent a letter of introduction to all state and territorial governors, Tribal and Business Council governors, Tribal and Business Council chairpersons, and presidents of Pueblos and Native American Nations (both federally recognized and unrecognized). In June, feasibility assessment grants from the NWN Fund were authorized through the DOE. The size of the grants are determined by tribal conditions. Phase II-A offers an additional $200,000 for continued education and feasibility studies. All nine of the Phase II-A applications were held by Native American Nations, therefore, if a MRS is to be sited, it will be on an Indian reservation. Phase II-B offers up to $2.8 million to continue feasibility studies and education outreach, to enter into formal negotiations, identify potential sites and commence an environmental assessment. One has to remember that a volunteer participant can drop out of the MRS process at any time and without any explanation. At the time of writing, the Mescalero Apache and the Tonkawa Tribe of Oklahoma have voted down the plans of their Tribe Councils. But with the carrot or the stick tactics, the Apache’s Tribe Council persuaded the tribe to a new and, for the Council successful vote. In this way, the pressure on the Ft. McDermitt Pauite-Shoshone will increase too. The tribal supporters of MRS expect $60,000-$70,000 per capita payments per year. But in spite of their poverty, most tribal members are unwilling to trade their land for money under the MRS arrangement. Tribal member Dennis Smartt said: “If I sell my land, I break my connection with my heritage and I can never get that back.” Many tribal members have complained about a lack of credible information concerning the MRS project, including outright fabrications put forth by DOE promoters. The result of a mail-in-survey which was organized by Citizen Alert shows that 77 per cent of tribal members are opposed to the project. Tribal members ousted four pro-MRS incumbents in the November 1993 election but the Tribal Council is still in favour of the MRS.
Grace Thorpe, who is the Sac and Fox Tribal Health Commissioner and daughter of the legendary athlete Jim Thorpe, stated to the National Congress of American Indians, “The nuclear waste issue is causing mental and possibly genocidal decisions regarding the future of our people. It is wrong to say that it is natural that we, as Native Americans, should accept radioactive waste on our lands, as the US Department of Energy has said. It is a perversion of our beliefs and an insult to our intelligence to say that we are natural stewards of these wastes.”
For further information, please contact:
Western Shoshone National Council (WSNC)
P.O. Box 210
Indian Springs, NV 89018-0210
Western Shoshone Health Project
Citizen Alert Native American Program (CANAP)
Attn. Virginia Sanchez
P.O. Box 5339
Reno, NV 89513
The author thanks Ms. Renate Domnick for her support with this article. Sources: Monitored Retrieval Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel in Indian Country: Liability, Sovereignty and Socioeconomics by Jon D. Erichson, Duane Chapman and Ronald F. Johnny (Working Papers on Agricultural Economics, August 1992).
Andreas Knudsen is a member of the IWGIA Danish National Group.
“The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) is an independent, international organization which supports indigenous peoples in their struggle against oppression.” IWGIA publishes Indigenous Affairs four times a year. Subscriptions in 1996 are US $30 for individuals and US $50 for institutions. Contact: International Secretariat, IWGIA, Fiolstraede 10, DK-1171, Copenhagen K, Denmark. E-mail IWGIA@login.dkuug.dk.
This is a short history of colonization of the Lakotah to explain why our people do not make efforts at self-sufficiency.
1. The United States outlawed our religion, our spirituality. Outlawed it. Out people were sent to prison if they caught practicing our ways.
2. They rounded up our children, all of our children, for over 80 years and forced them into government and religious boarding schools. These utilized corporal punishment and mental and physical torture. They worked to erradicate our language and our songs. To forcefully teach us that our parents and grandparents were nothing more than stupid, savage pagans. That education goes on today.
3. The Constitution of the United States of America does not apply to any American Indian living on an federally recognized American Indian Reservation in the united states. Therefore we haven’t any Constitutional protections against anyone or anything. We are not permitted on the reservation to econmically develop. Hence, our over 80% unemployment. We cannot test our water officially for uranium poisoning or arsenic poisoning or any other type of minerals or heavy metals. We can test for E Coli & harmful bacteria. We are ‘allowed’ 4 tests for those items.
4. We suffer under the agriculture’s department’s starchy food program which is dispersed to us on a monthly basis. The alledged 10s of 100s of millions of dollars spent on the Lakotah is actually not spent on us. We are allowed to touch it, as it flies through the reservation to the white man that surrounds us. We are permitted to own gas stations and convenience stores, where most people shop. We have one grocery store on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which is directly across the street from where the Bureau of Indian Affairs and nearby where Indian Health Service Hosptial employees work.
5. We have one Catholic High School, one Bureau of Indian Affairs High School, and two Tribally Controlled/BIA/No Child Left Behind High Schools. over 95% of the High School students have expressed the desire and the intention to leave the reservation as soon as possible. We have the Oglala Lakotah College, whose curriculum is designed to encourage graduates to leave the reservation. After over 80 years of these policies they have successfully destroyed our families, and our communities. Our entire culture is on the brink of extinction. The vast majority who remain on the reservation have crushingly low self esteem and no will to better themselves. The Christian Churches are vultures feeding off the carcases of our poverty. And they are very rich.
This list is a microcosm of the colonial and genocidal tactics fostered and developed by the government of the United States of America. For the above reasons and more is why we are asking for investment into our children, and investment in our self-determination. We welcome all opportunities for individuals to assist and lend their efforts to counter these effects and improve the conditions our people are struggling against.
July 7, 2009
On April 2, 2009, after hearing evidence for a month, a Denver jury unanimously found that Ward Churchill had been fired from the University of Colorado *not* because of research misconduct but in retaliation for speech protected by the First Amendment.
After more than four years of political attacks on Ward Churchill, a clear statement had been made: the University of Colorado had violated the U.S. Constitution when it fired Churchill, a tenured full professor of American Indian Studies.
The normal remedy in such cases? Reinstatement.
Today, July 7, 2009, Judge Larry Naves of the Denver District Court threw out the jury’s verdict, adopting the University’s argument that the Regents have “quasi-judicial” immunity from such lawsuits. In essence, this means that the Regents and University administrators are free to continue to violating the Constitution.
In a 42-page opinion lifted wholesale from the University’s pleadings, Judge Naves went on to explain why Ward Churchill should not be given front pay, back pay, or be reinstated.
All of these are irrelevant, of course, if the jury’s verdict is not upheld. But the fact that the judge went to such pains to adopt the University’s arguments – which often directly contravened the factual record in this case – speaks volumes.
This ruling simply confirms what we have observed so often. When given access to the facts, regular people on the street can make clear, reasoned decisions that uphold constitutional values. It is rare, however, to find persons in positions of power who will not bow to political pressure.
Attorney David Lane will, of course, appeal this decision. Ward Churchill’s reaction? “I can’t think of any way to improve upon Steve Earle’s line from *The Hard Way*: ‘There are some who break and bend. I’m the other kind.’”
July 7, 2009
If you’re an American Indian in the United States of America, whether you are a Lakotah or a Navajo, a tenured professor or a Nobel Peace Prize winner, or an elected president of another country, you will not receive justice in any form from the white people of America.
They attacked Vine Deloria, Jr. (on the day of his funeral), Rigoberta Menchu and Evo Morales. An Indian on a reservation can’t get justice. And a tenured professor can get unconstitutionally thrown out, vindicated by a jury of his peers in a court of law, and it doesn’t matter.
Everyone I’ve named cannot fight back. Evo Morales has to worry about being the president of a country; Rigoberta Menchu has to continue working for her people. Vine Deloria is dead. Indian people on reservations have no power of any kind.
Only Ward has the ability to fight back and win, and it’s still not good enough. They still quash him.
The American Indian has been living at Guantánamo Bay since the founding of the United States of America.
Friday 12 June 2009
by: Greg Palast | Visit article original @ GregPalast.com
There’s an easy way to find oil. Go to some remote and gorgeous natural sanctuary, say Alaska or the Amazon, find some Indians, then drill down under them.
If the indigenous folk complain, well, just shoo them away. Shooing methods include: bulldozers, bullets, crooked politicians and fake land sales.
But be aware. Lately, the natives are shooing back. Last week, indigenous Peruvians seized an oil pumping station, grabbed the nine policemen guarding it and, say reports, executed them. This followed the government’s murder of more than a dozen rain forest residents, who had protested the seizure of their property for oil drilling.
Again and again, I see it in my line of work of investigating fraud. Here are a few pit stops on the oily trail of tears:
In the 1980s, Charles Koch was found to have pilfered about $3 worth of crude from Stanlee Ann Mattingly’s oil tank in Oklahoma. Here’s the weird part. Koch was (and remains) the 14th richest man on the planet, worth about $14 billion. Stanlee Ann was a dirt-poor Osage Indian.
Stanlee Ann wasn’t Koch’s only victim. According to secret tape recordings of a former top executive of his company, Koch Industries, the billionaire demanded that oil tanker drivers secretly siphon a few bucks worth of oil from every tank attached to a stripper well on the Osage Reservation where Koch had a contract to retrieve crude.
Koch, according to the tape, would “giggle” with joy over the records of the theft. Koch’s own younger brother Bill ratted him out, complaining that, in effect, brothers Charles and David cheated him out of his fair share of the looting, which totaled over three-quarters of a billion dollars from the native lands.
The FBI filmed the siphoning with hidden cameras, but criminal charges were quashed after quiet objections from Republican senators.
Then there are the Chugach natives of Alaska. The Port of Valdez, Alaska, is arguably one of the most valuable pieces of real estate on earth, the only earthquake-safe, ice-free port in Alaska that could load oil from the giant North Slope field. In 1969, Exxon and British Petroleum companies took the land from the Chugach and paid them one dollar. I kid you not.
Wally Hickel, the former governor of Alaska, dismissed my suggestion that the Chugach deserved a bit more respect (and cash) for their property. “Land ownership comes in two ways, Mr. Palast.” explained the governor and pipeline magnate, “Purchase or conquest. The fact that your granddaddy chased a caribou across the land doesn’t make it yours.” The Chugach had lived there for 3,000 years.
No oil company would dream of digging on the Bush family properties in Midland, Texas, without paying a royalty. Or drilling near Malibu without the latest in environmental protections. But when natives are on top of Exxon’s or BP’s glory hole, suddenly, the great defenders of private property rights turn quite Bolshevik: Lands can be seized for The Public’s Need for Oil.
Some natives are “re-located” through legal flim-flam, some at gunpoint. The less lucky are left to wallow, literally, in the gunk left by the drilling process.
Chief Emergildo Criollo told me how oil company executives helicoptered into his remote village and, speaking in Spanish – which the Cofan didn’t understand – “purchased” drilling rights with trinkets and cheese. The natives had never seen cheese. (“The cheese smelled funny, so we threw it in the jungle.”)
After drilling began, Criollo’s son went swimming in his usual watering hole, came up vomiting blood and died.
I asked Chevron about the wave of poisonings and deaths. According to an independent report, 1,401 deaths, mostly of children, mostly from cancers, can be traced to Chevron’s toxic dumping.
Chevron’s lawyer told me, “And it’s the only case of cancer in the world? How many cases of children with cancer do you have in the States? … They have to prove that it is our crude,” which, he noted with glee, “is absolutely impossible.”
Big Oil treats indigenous blood like a cheap gasoline additive. That’s why the Peruvians are up in arms. The Cofan of Ecuador, unlike their brothers in Peru, have taken no hostages. Rather, they have heavily armed themselves with lawyers.
But Chevron and its Big Oil brethren remain dismissive of the law. This week, Shell Oil, got rid of a nasty PR problem by paying $15 million to the Ogoni people and the family of Ken Saro-Wiwa for the oil giant’s alleged role in the killing of Wiwa and his associates, activists who had defended these Nigeria Delta people against drilling contamination. Shell pocketed $31 billion last year in profits and hopes the payoff will clear the way for a drilling partnership with Nigeria’s government.
Congratulations, Shell. $15 million: For a license to kill and drill, that’s a quite a bargain.
This article first appeared on Truthout.org: