-Jim Hoft, Gateway Pundit
South Dakota’s Black Hills, home to the granite faces carved into Mt. Rushmore, should be restored as Native American tribal lands, a United Nations official recently said.
James Anaya, a U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, completed a fact-finding mission on Friday that included meetings with a number of Native American tribal leaders as well as White House officials. His investigation led him to suggest that the United States take additional steps to repair the nation’s legacy of oppression against Native Americans.
[James Anaya] met with representatives of indigenous peoples in the District of Columbia, Arizona, Alaska, Oregon, Washington State, South Dakota, and Oklahoma. He also met with U.S. government officials.
“I have heard stories that make evident the profound hurt that indigenous peoples continue to feel because of the history of oppression they have faced,” Anaya said in a statement issued by the U.N. human rights office in Geneva.
That oppression, he said, has included the seizure of lands and resources, the removal of children from their families and communities, the loss of languages, violation of treaties, and brutality, all grounded in racial discrimination.
Anaya welcomed the U.S. decision to endorse the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2010 and other steps the government has taken, but said more was needed. His findings will be included in a final report submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council. While not binding, the recommendations carry moral weight that can influence governments.
“It is clear that this history does not just blemish the past, but translates into present day disadvantage for indigenous peoples in the country,” Anaya said.
“There have still not been adequate measures of reconciliation to overcome the persistent legacies of the history of oppression, and that there is still much healing that needs to be done,” he said.
“Past uncontrolled and irresponsible extractive activities, including uranium mining in the Southwest, have resulted in the contamination of indigenous peoples’ water sources and other resources, and in numerous documented negative health effects among Native Americans,” he said.
He said indigenous peoples feel they have too little control over geographic regions considered sacred to them, like the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona and the Black Hills in South Dakota. Anaya suggested such lands should be returned to Native peoples.
“Securing the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands is of central importance to indigenous peoples’ socioeconomic development, self-determination, and cultural integrity,” Anaya said.
“Continued efforts to resolve, clarify, and strengthen the protection of indigenous lands, resources, and sacred sites should be made,” he added.
Mount Rushmore, a popular tourist attraction, is located in the Black Hills, which the Sioux tribe consider to be sacred and have territorial claims to based on an 1868 treaty. Shortly after that treaty was signed, gold was discovered in the region. U.S. Congress eventually passed a law taking over the land.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1980 that the seizure of the land was illegal and ordered the government to pay compensation. But the Sioux rejected the money and has continued to demand the return of the now public lands.
Are Native Americans still being oppressed? Are they a separate people from the rest of America? At what point in history do we let go and move on? A generation? 100 years? 200 years? A millennium? Never? To always hold grudges and claim victimhood for one’s situation today due to what happened to one’s ancestors, generations removed? And what of those Americans of “oppressed ancestry” who are currently experiencing great prosperity in today’s America? Who have benefited because of the course America took- good and bad, just and unjust- in its formulation?
In the case of Japanese-Americans receiving compensation for internment, that I can understand and am more sympathetic to, because those directly affected are still around.
With upwards of 70% unemployment on two Sioux reservations in South Dakota, Hot Air points out:
The report goes on for paragraph after paragraph about proposed plans based on the concept of systemic racism against indigenous people, but it does also manage to touch on one issue which is very real.
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.
“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.
Conditions on many of the reservations are indeed horrible. There are some exceptions, of course, among some in the Northwest with ocean access and others with casinos, but many of the tribal lands are simply desolate pools of poverty. If there is anything to the questions being raised by the UN, though, it is likely to be found less in some sort of nebulous cure for any sort of endemic racism than in the technicalities of a court of law.
The United States has indeed made many treaties with Native Americans spanning three centuries. Some were honored, (at least in part) but many were either ignored or crafted in patently unfair ways.
Everyone’s ancestors (let aside the possibility of immediate family members) at some point in time and in history has suffered injustices and oppression at the hands of some invading tribe or army, pillaging, raping, conquering. What is the practical solution to righting the wrongs of the past? The U.S. government is still around but the people involved on both sides of the equation are long gone. When do you cut your losses and say, “Time to move on” and quit blaming your circumstances on what happened centuries ago?