United Nations Formal Acknowledgement and Recognition of the Refugee Status of Indigenous Americans

  • by: Native American Church of the Ghost Dancers
  • target: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees United Nations Human Rights CouncilUnited Nations Special Political and Decolonization Committee of the General AssemblyUnited Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

The Native American Church of the Ghost Dancers is a church body registered and recognized as a 501(c)3 religious organization by the United States Treasury Department Internal Revenue Service and the Franchise Tax Board of the state of California as a church body.

The Native American Church of the Ghost Dancers was organized by federally recognized American Indians pursuant to the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and presidential Executive Order 13007 for the purpose of reestablishing the cultural and religious traditions, rights and heritage of indigenous Americans.

This petition is to address the egregious events, situations and problems that beset the indigenous American peoples and their cultural traditions by various governments and states of the Americas, their institutions and agencies, said governments to include but not to be limited to the United States, Canada and Mexico.  As the aforementioned governments and agencies have historically proven to have a biased against the indigenous American position and a vested interest in disenfranchising the same it is necessitated that a third party, to wit the United Nations, be retained, apprised and petitioned to intermediate in said situation.

This petition is principally designed to acknowledge and recognize the various indigenous American individuals, tribes, groups, bodies, ethnicities and nationalities as displaced persons and afford refugee status to such by the various bodies and agencies of the United Nations. This recognition is mandated in order to remedy the marginalizing and misidentification of the problems and situations that beset indigenous Americans.

The majority of indigenous Americans currently live in abject poverty having been dispossessed of their traditional land and wandering throughout the United States in a diaspora where they remain a disenfranchised refugee population in their own land. Two encapsulated historical examples might serve to illustrate how this situation came to be.

The indigenous Americans in the United States whose traditional land lay east of the Mississippi River were forcibly removed to Indian Territory by 1840 even though numerous treaties guaranteeing their rights to said lands had been unilaterally broken, renegotiated and amended by the United States government. It might also be stated, as an aside, that the several European nations had made treaties of friendship and trade recognizing the indigenous nations pre-emptive right to their territory, namely, France, Spain and England. Subsequent to this removal to Indian Territory the various indigenous nations involved were terminated by the Curtis Act of 1898 which affectively destroyed indigenous rights to Indian Territory and made way for the state of Oklahoma. This in essence dispossessed and disenfranchised the largest body of indigenous Americans then in the United States creating a large refugee population which has persisted for over a century.

Concurrently, the reservation system was instituted by the United States government's War Department in regards to the several western plains and southwest indigenous American nations. This policy was in essence designed to herd the indigenous populations into a contained area where their traditional beliefs, languages and ancestral heritage might be destroyed in an attempt "to kill the Indian out of the Indian".  One common method for instituting this goal was to forcibly abduct indigenous children and sequester them in "educational" institutions frequently established by sundry Christian religious organizations positioned on or in the vicinity of the reservations. There they were brutalized, disallowed from practicing their traditions, and punished for speaking their own language. As an aside, these reservations became the presumed models for the concentration camps established by the German government in the 1930's. Subsequently, the War Department became the Bureau of Indian Affairs and currently only interacts with certain "recognized" tribal governments and refuses to recognize the rights of individual indigenous Americans; even though, this refusal of recognition has caused serious problems within and without their own system as the contemporary situation regarding Individual Indian Money Accounts may attest.

It may be added that the status of indigenous Americans handed down by the United States Supreme Court in 1831 in the person of Chief Justice John Marshall was a landmark United States government policy and adjudicated indigenous Americans as "domestic dependent nations".  This same court had previously ruled in 1823 that indigenous American nations had no particular rights to their land but only the rights to convey the same to the United States federal government. This in essence has established a guardian-ward relationship between the several indigenous American entities and the United States government, a relationship that has tainted all subsequent treaties and trust land establishments and has ignored and made a mockery of indigenous American rights, autonomy and sovereignty. This "smoke and mirrors" ploy of the United States government has in turn used the indigenous American issue as a foil to declare and assume trusteeship over reservation "trust lands" as a pretext to acquire rich and valuable mineral, water and land rights to said properties which have been exploited in behalf of certain private and special interest groups and organizations. At the same time, said government agencies involved have had little or no regard for the devastating effects upon the ecosystem, the people or animal life.

The Snyder Act otherwise known as the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 was enacted to disregard the inherent rights to nationality of indigenous persons in the United States and unilaterally sought to make indigenous Americans in the United States citizens without their informed consent of whether to participate in the United States of America's "melting pot" of cultural and ethnic diversity. This in essence would have created a medium for cultural and physical genocide of the more than seven hundred indigenous American ethnic groups and nationalities as said group's languages, cultures and ethnicities exist nowhere else on earth in contradistinction to the various non-indigenous groups and ethnicities that represent the United States citizenry but whose cultures remain actively thriving in various parts of the world.

Because of the aforementioned situations the majority of indigenous Americans, esp. those in the United States, either do not have or are not living on government or reservation facilities and have no means of access thereto. Many are currently living in conditions of abject poverty, suffering from identity crises and substance abuse, in a refugee-like state in a land which was once their own.  This situation is aggravated by the fact that the United States refuses to recognize individual indigenous people and their rights but deals only with recognized tribal governments and their agencies which are frequently shills and sycophants for the United States government and serve as their agents in that capacity.

Unfortunately, the historical and contemporary source of the problem appertaining to indigenous Americans has been ill-defined, misunderstood and misidentified. Just as a medical patient can not be successfully treated until he/she receives a valid diagnosis nor can the indigenous American situation be properly addressed until the problem is correctly identified. While the approach to the problem besetting the indigenous populations of the United States has focused on treaty violations, the foundation of said treaties has been plagued from the outset, to wit that these treaties and agreements were made and established under the guise of a guardian-ward relationship between the United States government and their agencies and the sundry indigenous American nations. This defining relationship and foundation of said treaties and agreements placed the indigenous American nationalities and populations in a non-autonomous and subordinating category without plenary powers and were inherently flawed. Conversely, the correct identification of and approach to the pervasive problems that appertain to indigenous Americans is not that they are incompetent wards without plenary powers but rather that they are a refugee population with all the rights of humanity accorded any other people, nations or ethnicities.   

According to the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is a person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of their nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail him/herself of the protection of that country. Because most indigenous Americans have been coercively displaced from their ancestral homes and lands and could arguably have been disenfranchised rather than protected by the United States government this definition would appear to fit the indigenous American situation. Further, because refugees are a subgroup of the broader category of displaced persons and defined under international law as someone who seeks refuge in a foreign country because of war and violence, or out of fear of persecution "on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group" (to use the terminology from U.S. law), this would also appear to apply to indigenous Americans as they could arguably be considered displaced entities who have become foreigners in their own land.

The unique, long suffering and pervasive problem of indigenous Americans' refugee status representing over one thousand different nationalities and persisting for centuries has been overlooked and ignored because of the sheer magnitude and endemic nature of same. While the refugee populations and nationalities of Afghanistan, Angola, Burma, Burundi, Congo-Kinshasa, Eritrea, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Somalia and Sudan are accorded focused efforts and solutions by the world community of nations the indigenous refugee populations of the United States and other states throughout the Americas have been largely marginalized and ignored. This despite the fact that it can be argued that the indigenous American refugee situation was the origin of the policies, agenda and directives of the sundry government institutions of the various American states and has led to a cavalier and bellicose approach to world policies and agenda by same. These policies have engendered devastations toward and against all indigenous life including the various faunal populations over and with which  indigenous Americans consider a divine stewardship including cultural, spiritual and religious relationships with Indian Ponies and Wild Mustangs, Bison, Eagles, Bears, Wolves, etc., whose populations are currently being systematically decimated and destroyed by said governments. These policies have also been extended to pillaging of the ecosystem, water rights and mineral wealth of indigenous Americans. Unless the refugee problem is addressed at its source and the policies that attend thereto, to wit the indigenous American refugee status, these policies and agenda can only continue to fester and grow in a "manifest destiny"-like approach and may ultimately lead to more wars of aggression, devastated ecosystems, extinction of endangered species and displaced populations around the globe. These policies, agenda, directives and activities can only serve to act to the detriment of all living souls and disregard the rights to life inherent in humanity and ecosystems throughout the world.

We therefore urge the United Nations and the world community of nations to formally recognize and acknowledge the indigenous peoples of the Americas as a refugee population with all the rights of Humanity that attend thereto.  

We also propose that the Native American Church of the Ghost Dancers and the Falcon Theatrical Group be granted Non-governmental Organization General Consultative Status as indigenous American organizations by the United Nations to intermediate with same regarding these matters.

Achukmat Ish Anyashke (May You Fare Well)

This petition was written and prepared by

Sintollo Minko Aiokpanchi Alhpesa*

Native American Church of the Ghost Dancers

Falcon Theatrical Group

* Sintollo Minko Aiokpanchi Alhpesa is the title of Clifton Aduddell, a credentialed indigenous American recognized as such by the United States, Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the state of Texas Department of Public Safety

We the undersigned do hereby support and urge the United Nations bodies to enact Acknowledgement and Recognition of indigenous Americans as displaced persons with refugee status with all the rights of humanity that appertain thereto as contained in this petition. We believe and hope that by this act many of the problematic situations that now beset indigenous Americans, the living ecosystem both human, animal and plant may be addressed and resolved. Thank you for your prompt and sincere consideration in this matter.

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