Ya’ át ééh shi dine’é! I am very pleased to announce two new projects that the Navajo Nation Council will be involved with in the new year. First of all, the Navajo Nation has been asked to host a technical work group meting for the Organization of American States. During the past ten years the Navajo Nation, through the authorization of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee of the Navajo Nation Council, has participated in the world-wide discussions on the drafting of the declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. There are essentially two organizations that are hosting the discussions — the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
When the United Nations continued to discuss the draft declaration, the Organization of American States (comprised of 34 countries in the Western Hemisphere) initiated its own discussion on a similar draft declaration. OAS has been meeting on a periodic basis in Washington, D.C. to review its declaration. The Navajo Nation has also participated in the OAS discussions, which has precipitated high level interest from indigenous organizations from South America. These indigenous organizations requested that, The Navajo Nation host a preparatory technical group meeting on January 11-13, 2005.
The principle issues in both the U.N. and OAS sessions include self-determination, territorial integrity, lands, resources and territories, and collective rights. Unlike the Public Law 93-638 in the United States, the international scope of self-determination takes on an entirely different and complex law. Many states that are a part of the U.N. and the OAS discussions want to limit the peoples’ right of self-determination from the international norm. In addition, states want to ensure that, when the issues surrounding the right of self-determination are settled that the territorial integrity of the states remain whole; in other words, indigenous peoples do not secede from the states. The implication of these two theories alone can jeopardize inherent rights all over the world.
Regarding lands, territories and resources, the Navajo Nation has submitted interventions at these discussions indicating that the Nation has the right to manage and make final decisions over its lands and resources, including subsurface resources.
However, other countries contend that subsurface resources do not belong to a group of people but the entire country. Finally, one of the most complex issues is to differentiate and appropriately address the differences between the human rights of individuals and collectives. As an example, the Navajo people have the collective right to the traditional knowledge of science, nature and various aspects of Navajo life. However, the nation/states are foreign to group rights as human rights; in their interpretation, human rights relate to individual rights.
Various indigenous organizations from South and North America have made the commitment to attend this important meeting. In addition, the Canadian Minister of Indian Affairs is seeking to meet with the Navajo Nation in early January 2005 also to learn more about the Navajo Nation. More information about the meeting will be made available as plans are finalized.
Next, I would like to announce another partnership between the Office of the Speaker and Artreach International, a production company from Herndon, Virginia. We are putting out a call for educators and representatives of museums, libraries, youth groups, schools and community-based organizations to participate in a unique discussion to identify ways to inspire youth living on reservations to study aerospace and work with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The intent of the focus group is to explore how to use electronic education and multimedia to inspire American Indian youth living on reservations to pursue studies in aerospace and related fields.
The project, which was submitted by Artreach, was one of 11 proposals chosen by NASA’s Office of Education to receive funding. The goal of NASA is to develop innovative ways to engage and educate the public and inspire the next generation of explorers through the Vision for Space Exploration. Each of the selected proposals will host NASA Explorer Institute Focus Groups, comprised of experts from the informal education community, to identify strategies and approaches that will help NASA respond to community needs.
The NASA Explorer Institute Focus Group will take place January 26-27, 2005, in Window Rock, Ariz. An initial meeting of Navajo participants will take place January 12, 2005, also in Window Rock. Anyone wishing to participate must respond by January 12, 2005, to Angela Barney-Nez, from the Office of the Speaker, at 928-871-6371, or to Alice Carron, owner of Artreach International, at 703-834-1880.
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