GENEVA, Switzerland—On Wednesday, November 22, Navajo Nation Council Delegate Ervin Keeswood (Hogback) asked the United Nations’ member states at the Sixth Meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission Working Group on Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to support true self-determination.
“During my years of work with the Council, the standing committees and especially at the Hogan level with our Diné people, I have often been struck by the need for true self-determination of indigenous peoples at the national and international level,” said Keeswood, who serves as the chairperson of the Government Services Committee.
“While the United States currently operates under a policy of self-determination, the acts, which are undertaken under that title, are often completely contrary to the authority of indigenous peoples to determine our political status and to freely pursue our goals of economic, social and cultural development.”
Delegate Keeswood said that much work needs to be done in order for the member states to truly embrace the concept of indigenous self-determination and to allow indigenous and member states to reap the benefits of the true implementation of self-determination.
“The Navajo Nation works hard at maintaining and strengthening its government-to-government relationship with the United States,” he said. “However, there is a disturbing trend within the federal government and those of several states towards making Indian tribes and indigenous peoples subordinate to state jurisdiction, state law and state regulation of their daily activities.”
Further, Delegate Keeswood, said, “The intrusion of state power into Indian Country is being permitted and even encouraged in all areas of life—the courts, the schools, social services, economic development, public health and safety. Instead of a direct government-to-government relationship with the Federal Government, Indian are being relegated to an indirect relationship with the federal government through state, county and local governments.
“The situation wherein this trend is appearing are far too numerous to mention in this brief statement, but they strike at the very heart of the existence of indigenous peoples as a unique and separate population,” he said.
Delegate Keeswood, along with Speaker Edward T. Begay and Delegate George Arthur (Nenahnezad/San Juan) are a part of a delegation from the Navajo Nation participating in the Sixth Meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission Working Group on Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
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