UN human rights official criticizes federal relations with Indian tribes

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, raised concerns in May 2016 over Native American rights after visiting North Dakota following months of protests against the Dakota pipeline Access. (Bebeto Matthews / AP)

United Nations human rights official slammed the management of the US government of the Dakota Access pipeline project in a special report Friday, saying it ignored treaties and ignored the interests of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN special rapporteur to examine issues related to Native American tribes in the United States, said in an interview that she was struck by the ineffective communication between the tribes and the federal governments. and local people across the country, especially in the area of ​​development. and energy projects on or near Indian reserves. In her report, she said the federal government had shown a “lack of good faith involvement” of indigenous tribes in considering such projects.

While acknowledging that there has been progress in the relationship between the federal government and tribal governments, Tauli-Corpuz said there has been a widespread failure to adequately communicate and consult with Indigenous peoples on issues. issues “affecting their lands, territories and resources”.

Tauli-Corpuz concluded her 10-day mission to the United States in Washington on Friday, where she delivered a preliminary report on her visit to State Department officials. The trip took her to meetings with tribes, politicians, and government officials in New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. She also traveled to North Dakota, where she visited the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, the site of a year-long protest by Indians and environmentalists against the Dakota Access pipeline project.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe opposed the pipeline because it crosses the Missouri River a mile north of their reservation and, they say, poses a threat to their drinking water. The tribe argued that it had not been sufficiently consulted on the route of the pipeline – which it said passes through sacred burial grounds – and had no opportunity to meaningfully participate in discussions on the project with the Army Corps of Engineers and other federal government officials.

In an interview, Tauli-Corpuz said she was invited to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation by its president, David Archambault II, whom she met during her visit to the UN in Geneva last year to talk about the fate of the tribe.

“In a show of contempt for treaties and federal trust responsibility, the Army Corps approved a draft environmental assessment for the pipeline that ignored tribal interests,” she wrote in her report. “The EA project maps omitted the reserve, and the project made no mention of proximity to the reserve or that the pipeline would pass through historic treaty lands of a number of tribal nations. In doing so, the draft EA treated tribal interests as non-existent, demonstrating the current flawed process.

According to Tauli-Corpuz, the experience of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe is shared by many other indigenous communities in the United States. She wrote: “From my conversations with people across Indian country, I have learned that many of the complex issues facing Native Americans in the context of energy development today are rooted in a long history of dispossession of people. land and resources.

She urged the government “to undertake serious consultations with indigenous peoples before a project is presented to their communities”.

Tauli-Corpuz will soon return to Geneva and write a comprehensive report that will contain findings, observations and recommendations that she will present at a September session of the UN Human Rights Council.

“I hope the United States government will at least review the report and take into account the recommendations that I have made and see how they can implement them,” she said. “And I hope indigenous peoples will also use the recommendations to push the government to implement them.”

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