UN's correspondent on indigenous peoples urges government to act to combat 'racial discrimination' felt by Native Americans

A United Nations investigator probing discrimination against Native Americans has called on the US government to return some of the land stolen from Indian tribes as a step toward combatting continuing and systemic racial discrimination.

James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said no member of the US Congress would meet him as he investigated the part played by the government in the considerable difficulties faced by Indian tribes.

Anaya said that in nearly two weeks of visiting Indian reservations, indigenous communities in Alaska and Hawaii, and Native Americans now living in cities, he encountered people who suffered a history of dispossession of their lands and resources, the breakdown of their societies and "numerous instances of outright brutality, all grounded on racial discrimination".

"It's a racial discrimination that they feel is both systemic and also specific instances of ongoing discrimination that is felt at the individual level," he said.
Anaya said racism extended from the broad relationship between federal or state governments and tribes down to local issues such as education.

"For example, with the treatment of children in schools both by their peers and by teachers as well as the educational system itself; the way native Americans and indigenous peoples are reflected in the school curriculum and teaching," he said.

"And discrimination in the sense of the invisibility of Native Americans in the country overall that often is reflected in the popular media. The idea that is often projected through the mainstream media and among public figures that indigenous peoples are either gone or as a group are insignificant or that they're out to get benefits in terms of handouts, or their communities and cultures are reduced to casinos, which are just flatly wrong."

Close to a million people live on the US's 310 Native American reservations. Some tribes have done well from a boom in casinos on reservations but most have not.

Anaya visited an Oglala Sioux reservation where the per capita income is around $7,000 a year, less than one-sixth of the national average, and life expectancy is about 50 years.

The two Sioux reservations in South Dakota – Rosebud and Pine Ridge – have some of the country's poorest living conditions, including mass unemployment and the highest suicide rate in the western hemisphere with an epidemic of teenagers killing themselves.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Black Hill

"You can see they're in a somewhat precarious situation in terms of their basic existence and the stability of their communities given that precarious land tenure situation. It's not like they have large fisheries as a resource base to sustain them. In basic economic terms it's a very difficult situation. You have upwards of 70% unemployment on the reservation and all kinds of social ills accompanying that. Very tough conditions," he said.

Anaya said Rosebud is an example where returning land taken by the US government could improve a tribe's fortunes as well as contribute to a "process of reconciliation".

"At Rosebud, that's a situation where indigenous people have seen over time encroachment on to their land and they've lost vast territories and there have been clear instances of broken treaty promises. It's undisputed that the Black Hills was guaranteed them by treaty and that treaty was just outright violated by the United States in the 1900s. That has been recognised by the United States supreme court," he said.

Anaya said he would reserve detailed recommendations on a plan for land restoration until he presents his final report to the UN human rights council in September.

"I'm talking about restoring to indigenous peoples what obviously they're entitled to and they have a legitimate claim to in a way that is not devisive but restorative. That's the idea behind reconciliation," he said.

But any such proposal is likely to meet stiff resistance in Congress similar to that which has previously greeted calls for the US government to pay reparations for slavery to African-American communities.

Anaya said he had received "exemplary cooperation" from the Obama administration but he declined to speculate on why no members of Congress would meet him.

"I typically meet with members of the national legislature on my country visits and I don't know the reason," he said.

Last month, the US justice and interior departments announced a $1 billion settlement over nearly 56 million acres of Indian land held in trust by Washington but exploited by commercial interests for timber, farming, mining and other uses with little benefit to the tribes.

The attorney general, Eric Holder, said the settlement "fairly and honourably resolves historical grievances over the accounting and management of tribal trust funds, trust lands and other non-monetary trust resources that, for far too long, have been a source of conflict between Indian tribes and the United States."

But Anaya said that was only a step in the right direction.

"These are important steps but we're talking about mismanagement by the government of assets that were left to indigenous peoples," he said. "This money for the insults on top of the injury. It's not money for the initial problem itself, which is the taking of vast territories. This is very important and I think the administration should be commended for moving forward to settle these claims but there are these deeper issues that need to be addressed."

A Native American at his home on Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota, which has some of the US's poorest living conditions. Photograph: Jennifer Brown/Star Ledger/Corbis

Responses to "US should return stolen land to Indian tribes, says United Nations"

  1. It is heartening that the UN Special Racconteur recognises that money is no adequate compensation for the theft of Native American lands. Give the land back you thrives, it is not yours. It is sacred and you do not have the wisdom to protect it. You only want to exploit it. It is good that the world hears that what has been done against the First Nations people by the US Government are crimes. In fact it is genocide, and should be recognised as such. The cowards in Congress did not even have the manners to meet him, what contempt for international law and how typical of mainstream US ignorance and arrogance. America, you will be judged. You are nothing special, just a collection of thieves, rednecks and cowards. There are good people in America, but they are swamped by a system as evil as it is ignorant. Democrats in Congress... Where the hell are you at? Don't you have the guts to face up to what your country is... A hypocrite and a liar? What change for the good are you capable of? America cannot be a serious Nation until it acknowledges the crimes against the First Nations people, and makes real reparation, including giving back stolen land. You too Canada, you nothing! Grow some balls & do the right thing. America is clearly intending to ignore whatever recommendations are made to the UN and insist ' no one messes with our sovereignty. We go our own way, and if we want to be racist genocidal soulless zombies, we will be dammit!'. Funny how US cares about sovereignty as long as its not First Nations sovereignty. As a little Irishman with a bigger heart than the whole of Congress I say to you, your time will come, and you will fall before a mighty wind and be blown away like the soulless husks that you are. None of you are worth a plumb nickel, and you can all kiss my arse! America, you are a disgrace!

  2. Anonymous says:

    For what it's worth, as a response, I sent off a letter to my Congressman with a link to this article, asking him to contact the UN Rapporteur. We'll see if he does.

  3. Unknown says:

    "We must do more to heal and right the injustice done to all the Indigenous Peoples of the Earth, which includes to restore control over Lands the Native Americans consider to be Sacred and duly Rightfully theirs." Whereas we may never be able to right such a wrong, we can certainly make the effort for the better by allowing the healing and reconciliation process to begin... Please help by signing and sharing...

  4. Anonymous says:

    Mass self deportation to Europe is a must for all the smartest 312 millions!

  5. Unknown says:

    Return their stolen lands ...

  6. Todd Plante says:

    I think all the nations in the United Nations need to look in the mirror and give back the lands and boundaries their founding fathers or dictatorships have stolen from the original tribes or people they have displaced or killed . I think all these nations need to take the log out of their own nations eye before they try and remove the splinter in America’s eye . # hypocrisy, Islamic nations stilll practice slavery , and Forced female mutations and rapes , murder of gays and Christians , Jew or Infidels. Shut your face hypocrites . America can do better , we are the only nation in the world that’s truly repented of slavery with action of a bloody civil war that many white men died for in defense of black slavery . We can do better and will continue to be a more perfect union .

  7. Thirty Year History of the Iconic 'People Not Mascots' Logo

    The 'People Not Mascots' Logo is meant to be a Native American protest caricature of the racists Chief Wahoo logo of the Cleveland Indians Baseball team currently losing to the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. It was originally designed and painted in 1992 by David Jakupca at the historic ARK in Berea for the Committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance along with the Lake Erie Native American Council (LENAC) incorporating elements of the Theory of Iceality on Environmental Arts.The 'People not Mascots' Logo has drawn criticism from Cleveland sportswriters, fans and local businessmen, but received immediate acceptance among humanitarian, religious groups and Native Americans. The Cleveland 'People not Mascots' Logo gained international popular attention when it was it exhibited by ICEA at the 1993 United Nations World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna, Austria.

  8. Unknown says:

    For God sake give their land back Amen.

  9. Kurds need their lands and lives back, the Africans that are held as slaves in Middle Eastern countries and parts of Muslim Africa need to be released, Russia needs to leave the Ukraine. Brazil needs to quit seizing and burning rain forests with their indigenous peoples, all the non-black Australians need to move out back to their ancestral places, need I go on?

  10. Unknown says:

    Yeah well after all that's been done to us..the genocide...the stolen lands...the need to exterminate n eliminate us Native Americans...that will never happen in my lifetime...

  11. Unknown says:

    What about Mexico's stolen land?

  12. Yes, including the Hawaiian has been 127yrs of occupation by the USA who annexed Hawai'i via joint resolution (Newlands Resolution) which is totally illegal. Give us our lands back, Uncle Sam!!! #Alohaaina, #Kapualoha

  13. Unknown says:

    The United States has always prosper off of the backs of others

  14. RC Mandi says:

    Land should be returned by US Govt.

  15. Unknown says:

    The UN should move to France

  16. The Haudenosaunee Seneca (part of what most are familiar with as The Six Nations of Iroquois) conducted themselves with honor and wisdom and their form of government lasted about a thousand years. It was A TRUE DEMOCRACY!, not the form of government the U.S.believes is it's democracy. Constitutional Republic, Democracy, whatever Americans believe it to be, it's broken badly, and to imagine 300 more years, even 30 more years functioning (or so is believed) as it is now just may not last. America should give America to THE INDIGENOUS AMERICANS and begin anew.

  17. FYI says:

    So does China, Russia, Europe, Africa and the UAE and Iran. I notice they all defend their continents. They would all love it if America didn't again if we are to discuss what don't work well. I'm thinking our government works better than all of them, combined for nurturing liberty in a sustainable way.Native Americans are in poverty because their governments do not work any better than they ever did.

  18. Anonymous says:


  19. Sumonna says:

    Return the land of the indigenous ,you white American louts.

  20. Unknown says:

    Pharaonic Rule From Kemet to Washington......and all states are corporations and the inhabitants are binded sold off to the Fed Res/ by a Berth contract ...talmudiclaw/ucc......India was conquered by ? and lets give lands illictly taken back to who the mongols ...

  21. Unknown says:

    You are all beneficiaries of illicit "white" privilege all of ur Benefits the homes u live on "indian land" are due to past advantage that which is continued to assume to continue to the white man and it goes all the way back to the begening . how do you get to own a country..if u have a sheppard and a farmer and the shepard now claims im going to put a fence around the whole world and i own it and my descendats will now inherit the earth and everyone who shows up is a usurper the first man to put up that fence is a con man So the native americans came they happened to be 1st the navajo who came took the land from the hopi there law of the jungle was conquest that's how they got the land. the sioux who got the black hills took it from the cheyenne..
    when u say turn around and give the land back are u going to give it to the cheyyene oh NO..Its ours really how come u own it forever simply in the level of theory india was invaded by the british before the afghans the persians & the mongols you have all these successive invasions and u now all believe in a rule of social justice today that says going to figure out whos ancestors did what to whom and im going to return goods that were illicitly taken from the begening to the people who had it all u claiming to give america back to the natives wont get of ur asses to return what u are on currently your homes and all your belongings but lets correct for history via keyboards or the drive to wreck the freedoms of a free society as none of you have the self confidence to do it yourselves to begin with go find a native and give him ur car home and get of the illicit land u are on illicit means immoral and u are all spewing that role 100% you can continue to advocate this rule of social justice for all ..but NO it doesnt include you as u advocate a Moral duty to do this before u convince us u do it u are part of the USA and if u have any european in you hell ur part of the eviction plan once u have done it maybe you will convince the rest of us that our wealth is ill gotten but you cant do it and the only hypocricy goes to you as u know u are all beneficiaries of illicit priviledge .

  22. Unknown says:

    Yes of course it should be returned its theirs also alot of these people are dark skinned or copper coloured as well. Return it with interest. I have nothing more to say on the matter.

  23. Anonymous says:

    The us Gov is a private corporation based out of the UK.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Nobody owned the land. Ownership of land in its most basic form is something a person claims as thiers and they can keep someone else from taking it from them.

  25. You know what all I can say is you guys traded your land long ago therefore is not stolen you are all just upset because you guys made a retarded choice to trade your apparent land all I can say is suck it up it happened there's not a damn thing you can do about it now which brings me to say if you don't like it you know where the door is you know

  26. Good. Return the stolen lands! Not all of it, of course. That would be the entire U.S. But the most sacred areas like the Black Hills and a few others promised in the original peace treaties between the U.S. and many Native Nations'? Yes.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Ladies first Un hypocrites, humans have taken others land since the first idiot decided he could own a piece of the world and will continue until the planet is destroyed. But I get it, I'd be butt hurt too if a bunch of European defectors emerged as a world super power in such a short amount of time compared to how much longer you've all had to get your crap together�� How about you stfu or get at us.

  28. These lands were taken from the aboriginal indigenous peoples, copper colored people were the first to occupy lands in all four corners on earth. People of color Aka Indian, slave, mulatto, color, negro, black, African Americans were the true builders of America where land ownership didn't exist

  29. JACK says:

    U N Should leave New York, regroup and establish their new home in Hong Kong.

  30. JACK says:

    Im all for Native Rights, but U N cant keep from stirring up nonsense, when we allow them a home in NEW YORK. Note: the 911 Tragedy did'nt include the U N Bldg. Huh.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Listen I am native from Nez Pierce Displaced. My great grand mother was 6 when she and sister were seperated from their family and sent to different tribes, we have never regained our haratige from this. Our own tribe won't even take us. And we are Native proven with documents.

  32. Anonymous says:

    United States stole everything.

  33. Anonymous says:

    United States stole the role as being American.

  34. I'll be delighted to accept thee claim;I've been living on there streets since i was very young in new york city without a safe haven;or have any one to look up to because all of my elders lost our truth.most died over alcohol abuse or depression...

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