President Obama likes the “U.N. Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” He says it can “help reaffirm the principles that should guide our future.”
The State Department added helpfully that although the declaration is not legally binding, it “carries considerable moral and political force and complements the president’s ongoing efforts to address historical inequities faced by indigenous communities in the United States.”
This declaration – which carries”considerable moral and political force,” don’t forget – contains this little gem of a paragraph, in Article 26:
“Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired,” and nations “shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources.”
In other words, President Obama wants to give the entire land mass of the United States of America back to the Indians. He wants Indian tribes to be our new overlords.
Joseph Farah at WND:
It’s about time!
Barack Obama has finally done something right.
I’m always asked by interviewers if I can think of anything Obama has done that is commendable.
Frankly, until now, he’s done nothing but plot ways to steal my wealth. But things are about to change.
Maybe you missed it, but Obama has endorsed a United Nations resolution declaring the rights of indigenous people that could mean large swaths of the U.S. will be returned to native Americans like me.
I’m hereby staking my claim to Manhattan.
Maybe you didn’t know I have native American blood coursing through my veins. I’m more well-known for my Lebanese and Syrian ancestry. But, truth be told, I have a fair amount of Indian heritage on my mother’s side. So this proposed redistribution of wealth is welcome news for me.
Where do I apply? I want to return wampum for Manhattan.
Alex Pareene at Salon:
Congratulations, 2010, for fitting in one more completely insane made-up right-wing scandal: Barack Obama is going to give Manhattan back to the Indians! Also the U.N. will help, because grrrr, the U.N.!
Earlier this month, Obama said the U.S. would support the U.N.’s “Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People,” a non-legally binding promise to finally treat indigenous peoples with some small amount of decency after hundreds of years of the government murdering them and expelling them from their homes and forcibly relocating them to barren desert ghettos and now just letting them live in conditions of appalling, abject poverty. Bush refused to sign on to this, because, I dunno, it was from the U.N., and it might lead to frivolous lawsuits, or something? It’s a non-binding Declaration that basically says “we will be nice to indigenous people,” there’s no good reason not to support it.
But because hysterical right-wingers are hysterical right-wingers, they are seizing on this document as yet more proof that Obama wants to forcibly redistribute all the wealth, from productive hard-working Real Americans to swarthy welfare leeches. Take it away, World Net Daily!
Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adoted by the General Assembly more than three years ago, says what Fischer says it does. And it says all manner of other things that, while consistent with our current moral principles, would be absurd if applied retroactively. Fortunately, after all the affirmations, recognitions, proclamations, and acknowledgements, followed by 45 Articles that say very nice things, we come to the final article. It negates all the others:
1. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, people, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act contrary to the Charter of the United Nations or construed as authorizing or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States.
2. In the exercise of the rights enunciated in the present Declaration, human rights and fundamental freedoms of all shall be respected. The exercise of the rights set forth in this Declaration shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law and in accordance with international human rights obligations. Any such limitations shall be non-discriminatory and strictly necessary solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for meeting the just and most compelling requirements of a democratic society.
3. The provisions set forth in this Declaration shall be interpreted in accordance with the principles of justice, democracy, respect for human rights, equality, non-discrimination, good governance and good faith.
Emphases mine. Recall that the United Nations is a body chartered under the principle of state sovereignty. The people who passed this Declaration are representatives of its 192 member states. Rather clearly, then, the Declaration was not intended to give non-state actors – indigenous groups living inside state borders — power over states. Thus far, 143 countries have voted in favor.
Another clue in this regard is that the Declaration was issued by the UN General Assembly. It’s quite literally nothing more than a debating society. Each of the 192 states has equal voting power and the right to bring up matters. But anything passed by the assembly is nothing more than a recommendation. Indeed, that’s what the State Department announcement [PDF here] meant when it stated “The United States supports the Declaration which–while not legally binding or a statement of current international law–has both moral and political force [emphasis mine].”
Nonetheless, concerns over the ambiguity of the language is what caused the Bush Administration to withhold its approval. Ditto, initially, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand — other notable countries with similar concerns. All of them have since signed. ABC reports,
The US about-face came after officials determined that the language would, in fact, not conflict with US law and the complex relationship between national, state and tribal governments. Officials said they waited until a formal comment period for soliciting tribal input had expired before making the move to support the declaration.
“We think it is an important and meaningful change in US position,” said State Department spokesman PJ Crowley. “Of course, as with any international declaration we have certain reservations which we will voice reflecting our own domestic and constitutional interest. The president thinks it’s the right thing to do… Even though it is legally non-binding we think it carries considerable moral and political force.”
So, what’s the point?
Well, it’s an affirmation of existing American and international principle. While states have sovereignty, there’s been a growing consensus in recent decades that aboriginal groups–such as our 565 federally recognized Indian tribes, Native Hawaiians, and Aleuts–should be given a wide berth in preserving their native customs, language, legal systems and so forth. Indeed, it’s established in the United States Constitution that the tribes have a high degree of sovereignty on internal matters. (That’s why, for example, Indians can establish casinos on tribal lands contrary to the law of the states in which they happen to reside.)
So, is this just empty political symbolism? Pretty much.
Joan McCarter at Daily Kos:
This is only slightly less kooky than good ol’ Colorado governor candidate Dan Maes’ great UN-taking-over-American-cities-with-bicycles conspiracy theory, but mark my words, it’s going to get traction. Pretty soon we’re going to be seeing it on Beck and then Limbaugh and before you know it, Michele Bachmann will be introducing resolutions on the House floor about it.
Ed Brayton at Scienceblogs:
Seriously, are they that stupid or do they know they’re full of shit? Anyone who thinks Obama, or any other president, is going to give Manhattan back to the Indians is either delusional or engaged in the most egregious demagoguery imaginable. And the fact that it won’t happen will not change their thinking one bit.