Tuesday, February 17, 2009

AIM Co-founder Urges President Obama to Take Seriously the Issues Facing Indigenous Peoples

[Editor's Note: This letter was published by the Native American Times prior to Barack Obama's swearing-in ceremony, which took place on January 20, 2009 at 12:00 noon. For more information on Clyde Bellecourt, click on this Wikipedia article]

Letter to President-elect Obama from Clyde Bellecourt - AIM Grand Governing Council

President-elect Barack Obama
Transitional Team
Washington D.C. 20720

Dear Mr. President-elect,

In this year of hope and change, please accept my expression of congratulations and best wishes to you, your family and your administration, as the American Indian Movement unites with many Native people from across the hemisphere who welcome your victory. A vision of democracy is being fulfilled in our time and before the eyes of the world.

Tribal communities and governments clearly heard your commitment to reform the broken systems that manage and administer trust lands and other trust assets belonging to tribes and individual Indians. Your support of legal protections for our sacred places also encourages our governments and communities to believe that you will arduously defend the sanctity of our ancestral domains. The commitments made and in your principles statement echo the very concerns that summon representatives of indigenous governments to Washington on the eve of an historic inauguration.

It is in support of these Native American heads of state that I write to you. They bear on this journey of the burden of the future of our children, and their children's great, great, great grandchildren to be. Your administration will take office with clear understanding of conditions faced by Native American people in both the United States and Canada - conditions that defy reason to people throughout the global community. No one can understand how an eight-year old Canadian First Nations child could commit suicide in the heart of her community; or why elders can not heat their homes, while two-million [barrels] of dirty oil swiftly cross their backyards, threatening sacred world heritage sites. International media can not resolve to their audiences United States resistance to the abundantly clear need for justice in the billions of dollars under the eight-year long Indian Trust Lawsuit, while approved bailouts in the trillions for investors and lending-houses appear nearly overnight and apparently abandon all rules and accountability in favor of the most privileged.

Last year, many people heard the name that the Crow People bestowed on you when they made you a relative: "One Who Helps People Throughout the Land." Our children are falling prey to human trafficking, our young parents are losing hope with unemployment levels that exceed the national average by 1,000 percent; and the very health of our Elders is stolen from them little-by-little each day, deprived of the dignity that we have always reserved for them at this time in their lives, since time immemorial: these are the people that need your help. The chiefs calling on your office bear in mind the right to property that the United States records in the Bill of Rights and in numerous treaties on both sides of the border, which is absent in the Canadian Charter of Rights a and Freedoms. The Alberta Clipper and TransCanada Keystone Project that stands to benefit business and the general public in trillions of dollars may be built on the ruin of thousands of Native lives, if the United States fails to pressure Ottawa into compliance with their high courts in the matter of consultation and inclusion that you have emphasized as a principle.

Our hereditary leaders, Elders and the emissaries of our traditional governments who comprise the International Indigenous Treaty Council began the task three decades ago of working in the United Nations and securing international agreement on the inherent rights of our Peoples, our cultures, our children and indeed our future on Mother Earth. The unceasing work of many people finally gained passage of that agreement a little over a year ago. Article 19 speaks to one of the concerns that we bring to your attention. "States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concern through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them."

I urge you to take with serious regard the concerns of our chiefs, delegates to the Assembly of First Nations Canada, as we recall your words that "few have been ignored by Washington for as long as Native Americans - First Americans." The world will not ignore what you say, but our leaders need to know that you hear the voices they represent from throughout the land.

Most respectfully,

Clyde H. Bellecourt
Nee-Gon-Nway-Wee-Dung, "Thunder before the Storm"
Co-Founder and National Director, American Indian Movement


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Posted By Alliance for Indigenous Rights to Native Rights News at 1/20/2009 09:38:00 AM

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