Civil Society Consultation

I will try to keep this brief.

After the United Nations’ 2nd Universal Periodic Review of the United States, there was a later opportunity for the Civil Society Consultation with the US delegates.  I was on the official list that we had to speak….but I found myself not on the list when the delegates began calling on people.  Someone spoke up and they agreed to allow me to speak on behalf of indigenous concerns.  I’ll include what I read to the delegates, then I’ll share how they responded to me, including when I approached them after the meeting:

“Several statements today were directed at the United States’ failure to implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and many issues were not addressed.

As a member of the Generation Indigenous youth challenge, I am particularly concerned by the high suicide rates and disproportionate exposure of indigenous youth to substance abuse, incarceration, poverty, and adequate health services, as well as the overrepresentation of children in foster care.

As an indigenous woman, I am alarmed by the unacceptably high rate of violence against my demographic. 1 in 3 indigenous women will be raped in her lifetime, 70% of the offenders being white men from outside of the community.

These statistics are imperative to address as they inhibit fulfilling obligations to sustain indigenous cultures and to promote self-determination.

Not only have the historical traumas of Removal and other past Indian policies been documented as contributing directly to these problems, but so have the psychological impacts of the stereotyping of indigenous peoples by ignorant, outside communities.

The only modern exposures these communities often have to indigenous peoples are through inadequate public education and through grotesque caricatures, racial slurs, red-face, and cultural appropriation used as mascots in educational systems and lucrative sports industries.

These inaccurate representations perpetuate ignorance, discrimination, and the sexualizing of indigenous women. They provide platforms for hate speech and the continued silencing of indigenous peoples who live in fear of verbal and physical repercussions to their dissent of such mistreatment. The continued mascot issue therefore perpetuates and worsens the continued neglect in and discrimination against those in Indian Country.

I ask:

  • Why does the United States continue to allow places of education to have racist mascots?
  • Why does the United States continue to allow lucrative national sports teams to bear and profit from racial slurs and racist logos of marginalized citizens?
  • Why does the United States not protect the cultural rights of indigenous peoples and end the cultural appropriation of sacred and religious symbols, such as headdresses and eagle feathers, and also the desecration of sacred sites?”

Several responses were given in regards to indigenous concerns brought up by the different members of our committee.  (We also had folks representing Guantanamo Bay’s need for closure and reconciliation, police brutality – including the brother of the woman recently shot in Chicago, discrimination, transgender women of color – represented by a woman of just that category, immigration issues – by a Mexican-American immigrant, etc.)  All of our indigenous questions were answered by completely inadequate or inappropriate responses, or at least that’s how I see it…

First of all, in the question of upholding treaties, we were told that our treaties our “different” – that they also require a domestic enforcement that they are “prepared to look at”, ignoring completely the government’s complete obligation to uphold any international treaty, that they wouldn’t be “domestic” if they properly acknowledged tribal sovereignty, and that they shouldn’t have a choice of when they decide to “look” at it – this country was founded by treaties and this is imperative to address.

Petuuche Gilbert specifically voiced concerns about scared places and USDA Forest Service Lands.  We were told that these sacred places issues are “some of the most difficult to address” because their are interests in both sides and conflicting uses of those lands.  I sort of went into disbelief for a moment, then turned to Chief Gary Harrison and asked, “…Isn’t that position completely illegal?” to which he nodded.  There is obviously a huge gap between law, law interpretation, and law enforcement…

We had asked about tribal funding, and were told that it’s “very, very expensive” to assist tribes who lack resources, etc.  Again, federal obligation, folks.  That’s why this country exists – it’s a deal with Indian Country for adequate services.

Talk of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) arose.  The delegates claim to be working on implementing ICWA better and that they’re collaborating with the NCAI on this issue.  Along with that, they’re also tackling the lack of data collection, saying they’re “working very hard on how to collect better data.”

As for my question, Kevin K. Washburn, assistant secretary to the Department of the Interior, essentially did not answer my questions at all.  Instead, he took the moment to brag on how great it was that a Gen-I youth was present, that’s what they need and want, that’s the purpose of the program…….to the point that it was as if he’s tooting his own horn.  In my opinion, Generation Indigenous is youth empowerment but in one sense it’s also encouraging the youth to make changes instead of forcing the government to assume all responsibilities it’s obligated to assume.

Washburn also told me how he believes tribes are ultimately responsible for overcoming these issues of suicide, domestic violence, etc.  Again, I don’t think this is totally true.  Today, the US spent so much time bragging about the dollar figures it has spent on Indian Country and the number of acreage recovered…but if you look at those same statistics in regards to 566 of any other nations, those figures are completely inadequate.  It’s my understanding of the law that the US government is obligated to get tribes on “even footing” on account of the historical trauma and disparages they’ve been forced to undergo in the process of founding this country.  And with limited resources on their concentration camps…I mean…Reservations…..how are they expected to thrive in resource-less isolation?

Afterwards, Washburn elaborated for me on what he had been saying.  As an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, I find it hard to believe that he doesn’t know my side and want to make a positive difference.  I’m guessing a lot of his responses were solely because he’s a politician and actually has a pretty tricky job not violating his limitations on what he can say.  I told him about my involvement with AISES, he gave me his card, and I decided he is a good contact to maintain if we want to make change in the future of Indian Country.

 

The 2nd Universal Periodic Review of the United States

I’m going to spend one post specifically explaining what the UPR is, what it’s like to participate in the UN Human Rights Council, and how today’s review of the United States went.

The Universal Periodic Review

In 2006, the United Nations adopted the Universal Periodic Review process which allows for its 193 member states to be evaluated by one another on their human rights failures, successes, and on-going efforts.  The cycles were every 4.5 years – now every 3.5.  They begin with a national report from the country to be reviewed, pre-submitted questions by the working member states, and a written report summarizing the findings after the UPR by the “troika” – a unit of three pre-selected member states, different per each review.  Essentially, the Universal Periodic Review is an opportunity for countries to openly discuss and make recommendations for one another under constructive criticism.  The idea is that the UPR sessions are reasonably short and efficient, but that they can make huge strides towards achieving a universal and international standard for human rights across all of the member states in the United Nations.

Participating in the UN Human Rights Council

There are two ways really of participating in the Human Rights Council: as a delegate, or as a civilian.  This year, I was fortunate enough to participate as part of the civilian society.  I have not been working towards this HRC nearly as long as the others (most have been strategizing for more than a year, at least), however I was asked to represent the Southeast Indigenous Peoples’ Center which had already been submitting shadow reports in previous events, like the Permanent Forum in April.  My involvement began when I wrote a supplement report for their specific concerns with indigenous human rights disparages.

The UN Human Rights Council occurs in Geneva, Switzerland.  It’s actually very easy to get to: the airport is right there on the edge of Geneva, you can get a free train/bus pass from a kiosk when you first arrive, and the stop “Nation” takes you directly to the square in front of the UN Headquarters (where you will see the classic rows of member state flags).

(Funny side story: One of the art pieces in the square is a giant “wooden” chair with one of the legs busted out.  I overheard today that one of the delegates was standing in the square this week and complaining that they still hadn’t fixed the chair.  Apparently he thought a car had gone off the street and hit it, hahaha!)

Once you get to Nation Square, unless you have a very special UN pass, you have to use the side entrance.  I think one of the bus lines takes you there, but I always just walked.  You go to the left of the UN and walk a fair distance up the hillside to the gated entrance directly across from the Red Cross building.  There, you will find several lines depending on what kind of pass you have (if you even have one yet).  The gates to the right that do not go through security are like the ones at the front of the building – most special access only.

When I first arrived, I didn’t have a badge.  I had to go through security and to the desk inside to have my credentials verified and a pass made.  Unfortunately, when I first arrived, I was also not on the “special” list – or at least we couldn’t find how I was listed.  I ended up with a non-ECOSOC (UN Economic & Social) pass.  In this case, they give you a badge that gets you into the conference, but you cannot participate on the floor in the review room (the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations room).  So, on Thursday, I was able to check out the review of Bulgaria, but I had to enter building E40, go up one floor, and enter through a back way that led me to the gallery.  From the gallery, you can watch from all around the room through glass windows, on a few rows of seats in each sections, and with the neat little ear pieces that are seen throughout all of the UN rooms.

Once I had confirmed my association with the US Human Rights Network, I was invited on Friday to return to the desk behind the security gates to have an official badge printed.  This badge either lasts as long as the conference (mine goes to May 31, 2015), or they’re annual, depending on your association with the process.  Some US Human Rights Network invitees had the annual pass, but they still had to enter in the same gates that I used.  This pass was the key to entering through security in the review room and actually sitting behind the delegates during the review of countries.  I needed this to be in the US Review.

As for events, since I was participating for United States NGO/human rights rallying in the civil society, I attended a couple side sessions, the US Review, press conferences, the Civil Society Consultation, and other events that our network arranged, such as a presentation at the Graduate Institute a few blocks down from the UN which was directed towards human rights college students there.

In my next post, I will describe my involvement in the Civil Society Consultation.  But first, the main attraction…

United States 2nd Universal Periodic Review

The United States has only had one previous UPR, in 2010.  This was a historical UPR to attend, because never had the United States had a follow-up to another review.  It would be the first time that state members could accuse the United States of not having followed through on commitments since their 1st UPR.  The event was scheduled for 9am to noon this morning, keeping in line with a quick but efficient UPR process.  The UN doors, we were told, opened at 8am – but someone called in to find they actually opened at 7:30am.  I got to the UN at about 7:15am and was first in line along with a couple other of women from our US Human Rights Network.  Fortunately, we were all early enough that we got seats on the floor for the UPR.

Yes, it really was that crowded.  As I learned this week, our country is not exactly that “land of the free” that we often sing (and brag) about.  I already knew this from the work I have been doing, but I never realized how much the other countries know that and very much want to give the United States an opinion on what it’s doing improperly.  This is evident just by the participation of the member states: When I attended the Bulgaria review, the troika was present as well as a handful of countries who had recommendations to give.  When we got to the UPR for the US, I was told there were approximately 122 member states who were vying for a chance to give the US an earful.  Because of the incredible demand for the floor with such a short process to begin with, the speaking times per state member, which were already no more than 2 minutes apiece, were universally cut down to a mere 65 seconds to deliver 1) a welcome, 2) an optional appraisal for the work done and continued participation, 3) a list of human rights concerns noted in the country that the member state finds particular offensive, 4) a series of recommendations and urges the member state has for the United States to complete before its 3rd UPR.

And now for a review of what was happening – here is a list of the countries who had time slots to speak, in the order of delivery:

Kazakhstan, Kenya, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Korea, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, Brazil, Viet Nam, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Benin, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Botswana, Venezuela, Bulgaria, Burkina-Faso, Cape Verde, Canada, Chad, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cote D’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Korea, Dem. Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Vatican, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Bolivia, Maldives, and Uzbekistan.

There were various themes, depending on the country presenting.  This is key to our strategizing as NGOs.  You may wonder, as did one individual at one of our press conferences earlier, why NGOs are coming to Geneva and our answer is this: Because we need to make changes, and we have to rally the pressure from other countries who believe in the changes we are asking for because they are the ones capable of making recommendations on behalf of our causes.  We see this as an effective strategy to pressure our own government into changes things demanded by The People to be addressed.

As I said, there were various themes: the need to eliminate the death penalty, to close Guantanamo, to commit to measures against pollution/reduce admissions for climate change, to respect privacy of citizens and those abroad (including digital communication), create equality for women and minorities, etc.  Lots of talk was done in regards to children rights, women rights, minority rights, police brutality, racial profiling, discrimination, labor rights especially concerning those in agriculture and those who are immigrants, protection of families like immigrant families, the need for abortion availability and assistance for rape victims and similar, etc., etc., etc.  About 1/5 of the member states directly voiced concerns for the US’s inability to adapt the UNDRIP (Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), and many questions on the treaty violations, especially by China.  Pakistan, of all places, acknowledged the rights of Hawai’i and Alaska in the indigenous concerns realm.

Here are 21 of the countries from my notes who made very clear and obvious statements about indigenous concerns during their 65 seconds to review the US:

Nicaragua, Peru, Moldova, Sierra Leone, Spain, Sudan, Macedonia, Albania, Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cape Verde, China, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Finland, Guatemala, India Iraq, Uzbekistan.

I’m not surprised by the Central and South American countries who had statements regarding this – as they are all part of this indigenous American system.  They also all had immigration and migrant worker concerns.  As for some European countries, they often face scrutiny on their treatment of the Romani peoples, as I heard in the review on Bulgaria.  The northern most countries of Europe also have an indigenous history.  The subcontinent of India and African countries, I suppose even the Middle East, all have very diverse indigenous communities that we often don’t think about.  Even China is faced with a plethora of dialects and diversity.  Australia, of course, has its share of indigenous issues.  However, New Zealand seemed reserved in attacking the US from this standpoint (perhaps because the Australian continent is struggling to address indigenous issues properly themselves).  Interestingly enough, Canada had no input on the indigenous situation (probably because they are almost identically as guilty).

Basically, I noticed two problems: 1) indigenous issues (which I was there for) were mentioned, but the US completely neglected answering them properly – if at all; and 2) there are so many things in the US that are not up to international standard.  In particular, this involves issues on healthcare, eliminating the death penalty, racial discrimination, etc…

The US also didn’t seem to make too much progress since their first review.  That was duly noted by several countries.

Hopefully this has been informative, and, with that, I will now move on to my next post regarding the Civil Society Consultation, key to getting our individual voices out to the US delegates during the conference.

She’s Canadian; next thing we know, she’ll take it to the UN.

I remember reading that comment a couple of weeks ago on one of the Biloxi Facebook pages.  A Biloxi alumnus and supporter of the continued use of BHS’s racist and stereotypical mascot/name was stereotyping and discriminating Deloria Many Grey Horses.  This was in April, before I realized how involved I would be getting in indigenous human rights issues.  But now I find the comment funny, because Deloria has not gotten the United Nations involved in this issue.

I did.

Several blog entries/articles I have been writing have recently gained the attention of a number of organizations.  The Southeast Indigenous Peoples’ Center in particular asked me to write a supplementary document for the Permanent Forum in New York on April 30th.  Roughly a week later, I found myself on a plane bound for Geneva.  That’s where I am now, as a representative for indigenous youth, the US Human Rights Network, and the SIPC.  On Monday, I will be sitting in the UN room with all of the media and delegates, the representatives at the podium to be addressed for the second time ever on their shortcomings in human rights issues.  For the first time ever, delegates in the room have likely seen (or at least heard) about the complaints of “Native mascotry” in the US.  And, if they attended one of the side events, it’s likely these spokespeople even have a copy of my one-pager with three pictures on the back page: one of the Cleveland Indians mascot, one of the Washington logo and name, and one of several Biloxi band members marching in Northern Plains-style headdresses.

Ironically, the comment I read on Facebook motivated me the most to travel to Geneva and address the U.N.  It wasn’t just because someone was being snarky; it was because someone thought this is a joke, not worthy of the UN…or worse, that the UN is a joke.

But these issues are already being talked about, just in a different context – and in a different country.

For example, when I first arrived on Thursday, I was given a general pass.  I sat in the gallery and listened to the review on Bulgaria.  Most commentary was friendly and kind, suggesting that more be done but congratulating Bulgaria on its progress thus far.  Until Russia stepped up to the microphone.

Russia was incredibly harsh regarding the way Bulgaria continues to mistreat Roma peoples (or maybe just the linguistics of Russian are so harsh that it translated as such).  Russia accused Bulgaria of not providing enough care for children and called for funding to be cut to state groups who promote racism of the Roma peoples.  And for those of you who don’t know, The “Romani” is the correct name for what you might call “gypsies”.

Next, Serbia adds to Russia’s opinions, concerned by the racism that exists in Bulgaria despite existing ethnic diversity.

Sierra Leone offered a different perspective, focusing on gender stereotypes and how to prosecute people for their hate crimes.  The delegate also addressed her concern for victims of hate crime (“hate speech relief”), such as a need for women/domestic violence shelters in Bulgaria.

Slovakia called for more than just Bulgaria to work in unison, as part of a larger Roma integration strategy, especially in regards to children welfare.

All of these perspectives were interesting and I realized the Romani are, in many ways, like the indigenous peoples of certain parts of Europe.  They don’t live a “standard” life, are stereotyped, and are viewed often as less than humans.  It made me wonder what it would be like if the United States were finally scoured for all of their similar mistreatments of indigenous peoples protected by broken treaty rights.

Then, today, I visited two side events.  The first was the International Indian Treaty Council, focusing on indigenous problems (but all of those discussed regarded the United States).  The second was a more general discussion on American human rights deficiencies.

Andrea Carmen (Yaqui) discussed the US’s process of authorizing itself to dismiss treaties, and to declare it will make no more new ones.  She argued this is how the US silences indigenous peoples, by ignoring them and putting them under plenary power with no legal basis.  In later discussions, she brought these points up again in the case of the seizure of Hawai’i.

Chief Gary Harrison (Alaska) called for the decolonization of Alaska, proving that, by legal definition, the United States does not own Alaska.  Alaska was “bought” from Russia, but Russia never conquered Alaska, therefore it was not Russia’s to own in the first place.  He even explains how the process to vote for Alaskan statehood was completed by only settlers as it took five white people per Native to verify their “competence” in voting.  He spoke out against mining in Alaska and how it causes problems in indigenous villages, such as pollution, rape, and murder.  He defended their right to clean drinking water, and for salmon to live and spawn in clean waters, saying they have spent so much money cleaning up, yet mining companies want to return and re-pollute recently cleaned salmon streams.

Christina Snider spoke first about the concern of children welfare and having cultural households, then also about women’s rights and violence against indigenous women (and children).

Petuuche Gilbert (Acoma) focused on how the entire country was founded on the unethical idea of “manifest destiny”, stating that laws continue to be made in order to keep the land “in the hands of thieves”.  This is his explanation to the continued land-grabs and exploitation.  He also calls “domestic sovereignty” an “oxymoron”, saying “they made it up to control us, our land, our people.”

The floor was then open for discussion, and they took three questions.  I ended up grabbing the third slot.  My statement was (maybe not quite as eloquent because I was nervous!  But this was the gist.): I am here to represent indigenous youth for several organizations.  In indigenous youth populations, suicide rates are incredibly high, and substance abuse as well as the idea of “no hope” are also plaguing communities.  Self-worth is low, because there is also a prevalence of disrespect from outside cultures.  Through my personal experience and the experience of others, I have come to realize the significant of the mascot issue and how it perpetuates disrespect, lack of understanding, and this “no hope”/low self-worth experienced in such indigenous communities.  What I want to know is, why can blackface be illegal and yet redface is okay [especially since it represents scalping, not skin color!]?  Why haven’t these mascots been banned when the change would be so simple and have such a positive impact?  A lack of education of our peoples also perpetuates the lack of respect, thereby perpetuating such discrimination and racism – people don’t even understand why it’s wrong.

I received a lot of nods from the board.  They started with the questions in order, then returned to mine.  Andrea Carmen stated that the UN permanent forum that was just held had a lot of input about the vastly disproportionate youth suicide rates in the indigenous populations of US and Canada, influenced directly by all these aspects of Reservation/urban Indian life that had been addressed in the side event.  She also pointed out the connection between the history of child removal and residential schools, of disgracing what it is to be indigenous.

Christina Snider said that she is very involved at the National Congress of American Indians in the problems of cultural appropriation and the use of indigenous mascots.  She argued it is indeed very intrinsically linked to the issues of youth, like high suicide rates, juvenile justice issues, and the “prison pipeline system”.  She says, “Until we can respect ourselves as people, these issues will keep happening; until other people can respect us as not being pasted on their bumpers, painted on their faces, and worn on their heads at Coachella – how can we help ourselves if others cannot respect us as people?  It’s all connected.”

Finally, as time was running out, Chief Gary Harrison added two key words: historic trauma.  He shared that his father was murdered in front of his whole family and that the man who did it received one night in prison.  He said, “When crimes are not rectified, this causes historic trauma.”  Indeed, I remember reading articles about how post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is experienced by many people living on US concentration camps (Reservations).  Chief Harrison continues, saying the mining camps contribute to these feelings of “no hope”.  He said that, when these camps come in, the men get the jobs, then the community members see all these people come in with money and they don’t have any money or any way to take care of themselves….”And you wonder why they’re committing suicide.”

After the meeting, Chief Gary Harrison approached me in the hallway and thanked me for bringing up that point.  He elaborated more on the psychological aspect of the issue, of historic trauma/PTSD, and we discussed the lack of appropriate education in the American system regarding indigenous histories, affairs, etc.  It was very encouraging to see an Elder acknowledge the complications of Native mascotry and how they’re not acceptable.

Later, we reconvened at the Graduate Institute for presentations by the US Human Rights Network. All sorts of issues were represented.  We discussed indigenous issues, southeast Asian deportations, torture crimes by the US government (delivered by men in the US military, and also an attorney for victims of Guantanamo Bay), police violence, and even a transgender woman of color stood up, nearly in tears, explaining her life expectancy is 35 because she chooses to live as who she is and has no protection.  The event was followed by a social with dozens of students.

Well, there’s a re-cap of the last day and a half.

So, to reiterate the original point I made in this post – yes, the mascot issue is now a prevalent discussion in the 2nd US review… And, yes, Biloxi was used as a prime example of racist mascotry in the public education system.

UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues – supplemental submission

The Southeast Indigneous Peoples’ Center reached out to me via Twitter earlier this week, asking me to supplement their submissions to the UN in NY today and to Geneva in two weeks.  They had seen the work I was doing for #IndigenizeZuckerberg and also the mascot issue in Biloxi this past week.  This is their reviewed version of the piece I threw together to supplement their report on how the mascot issue is a form of hate crime in violation to UNDRIP:

Since Manifest Destiny first targeted the indigenous peoples of North America, Native Americans and Alaska Natives have become a marginalized race of Peoples, suffering worse afflictions than any other racial group in the United States.  The U.S. Government holds a special trust relationship with the hundreds of sovereign indigenous nations within the 50 states, yet treaty rights continue to be ignored and Indian services are severely neglected in federal spending priorities.  As a result, Reservations have become concentration camps where the descendants of genocide victims are expected to either lose their indigenous identities, leave, and assimilate, or to continue suffering in silence.  Centuries of wrongful U.S. policy has demonstrated the desire to erase cultural identity from the indigenous peoples, to reap tribal lands of resources for the benefit of the non-indigenous and leaving pollution in its wake, and continually neglect the high youth suicide rates, murdered and missing indigenous women, and discrimination on indigenous peoples by outside communities.

 

Not only is tribal self-determination not being adequately promoted, but mainstream America is being taught a biased history of the vast crimes committed on indigenous peoples.  Their skewed view is multiplied when their only modern exposure to Indigenous Peoples are the grotesque and stereotypical caricatures, racial slurs, and cultural appropriation used as mascots in educational systems and lucrative sports industries.  These inaccurate representations perpetuate ignorance and provide platforms for hate speech and the continued silencing of Indigenous Peoples who live in fear of verbal and physical repercussions to their dissent of such mistreatment.  The continued mascot issue therefore perpetuates and worsens the continued neglect in Indian Country.

 

The Onedia-commissioned study documents the direct impact these stereotyped imageries have on the self-worth of indigenous youth who already have the highest rates of suicide of any group in the country.  It also demonstrates how these images continue to teach non-indigenous youth prejudice, even if the mascots are meant to be positive and even if the children do not intend to learn racism.

 

According to the Aspen Institute,

• American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) poverty rates in 2009 were 23.6%

• AI/AN average household income was $33,300 versus a National average of $46,200 in 2000

• AI/AN in Indian Country have incomes of less than half the National average

• the IHS estimates, historically, annual Congressional appropriations have only met 52% of AI/AN healthcare needs

• in 2009, 24.1% AI/AN lacked health insurance coverage, yet had more than double the suicide rate, with indigenous teens the highest suicide rate of any group in the country, a 514% higher alcoholism mortality rate, a 177% rate of diabetes (and the highest Type 2 rates in the country), and 500% higher rates of tuberculosis.

• 16% of students at BIA schools in 2001 had attempted suicide in the preceding 12 months

• the second leading cause of death is suicide, 2.5 the national average, among AI/AN ages 15-24

• in 2003, the national graduation rate was 49.3% for AI/AN versus 76.2% for whites, 13.3% AI/AN got undergraduate degrees verses 24.4% for the general population

• drop out rates for AI/AN high school students are more than double the national average, and are over 50% in states with the highest AI/AN population

• AI/AN children make up 2% of American children, yet 8.4% of American foster care children

• violence accounts for 75% of deaths in AI/AN ages 12-20 years (malicious injuries, homicide, suicide)

 

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice:

• AI/AN women are 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the U.S. in general

• 1 in 3 AI/AN women will be raped in her lifetime versus 1 in 5 of American women in general

• a larger percentage of victimization against AI/AN women is committed by white offenders than by AI/AN offenders

 

All of these statistics are relevant to demonstrate how, across the board, AI/AN youth, women, and whole communities are suffering as a race at unacceptable rates.  The U.S. Government is obligated to provide services to these communities, and to promote self-determination.  However, self-determination requires self-sustainability in four community aspects: environmental, social, cultural, and economical.  All four of these components are being inadequately addressed if not completely neglected, as evidenced by these atrocious statistics.  Furthermore, the lack of education and the perpetuation of hate speech and silencing of indigenous peoples that revolves around the presence of indigenous mascots in non-indigenous communities directly contributes to these disparages.  These symbols encourage the dehumanization of human beings.  This dehumanization washes away identity and cultural significance, leading to the cultural appropriation of sacred indigenous symbols and beliefs.  The lack of proper education on indigenous histories and current issues contributes to this ignorance.  All in all, indigenous peoples are lumped together as a lesser human race and are silenced and continuously marginalized.  Youth have lower self-worth and self-respect, and suicide rates remain terribly high.  Indigenous women, by the thousands areraped, murdered, missing, and ignored by the populations who are statistically more likely to have committed the crimes in the first place.

 

So we ask, as indigenous youth who accepted the Gen-I challenge this year, are we expected to accept that we or 2/3 of our friends and family will be raped in our lives?  Are we expected to accept the perpetuation of dehumanization against us and all Indigenous Peoples through the continued use of native mascots in our schools and sports?  Are we supposed to lose more indigenous friendsto suicide, because we are just an expanding statistic?  Are we supposed to believe this is what is constitutional to Indigenous Peoples?  When will the international community stop ignoring the disparities in between indigenous and non-indigenous communities and the lack of education on indigenous realities in mainstream US?

 

Start with the easy fix:  Change how we educate Americans on Indigenous Peoples, and change how they view the mascot issue.  Banish all mascots and public uses of racial slurs, such as by the Washington football team, the Cleveland baseball team, and the hundreds of schools still using these images like the Biloxi Senior High School in Mississippi.

 

We are harassed, ridiculed, and live in fear of the consequences when we ask others to stop dehumanizing and mocking usWe fear for our lives and the lives of others, just because we are representing IndigenousPeoples in an overwhelming non-indigenous society.  

 

We ask: 

Why does the United States refuse to protect our rights as defined by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP)?

We recommend:

1. ALL RACIST MASCOTS eliminated before the close of schools June 1, 2015. Indigenous Peoples will define what is racist.
2. US comply with all Articles of the UN DRIP and eliminate all derogatory images of Indigenous Peoples and indigenous persons and culture and obtain permission to use indigenous cultural heritage in accordance with Article 11 and other relevant Articles of UN DRIP.