Jul 28, 1999

Report on the 17th session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations

UNPO Monitor July 1999

Indigenous Peoples and Nations Coalition

Tununak Traditional Elders Council
Indigenous Peoples and Nations Coalition

17th Session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations Item Number

Warm Greetings and Camai to all distinguished participants: the Governments, the Indigenous Peoples and to all observers of the 17th session of this Working Group.

I would like to start with congratulations on your re-election as Chair and give a special expression of gratitude for the vital support and inspiration you, Madame Daes and the Government of Greece continue to provide to Indigenous Peoples through your important work at the United Nations. The Indigenous Caucus is grateful to you, for sponsoring the press conference at the end of the recent Intercessional of the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples this last December of 1998. Your intervention at that forum in our support, which was also the 50th year celebration of the passing of the Declaration of Human Rights continues to be vastly appreciated. Thank you for the refreshing reminder that 1998 was also the 50th year anniversary of the passing of the Convention on the Prevention and the Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the important protections it should provide to Indigenous Peoples. Quyana Caknak, which is "thank you very much" in my Yupiaq language.

Sovereignty and Self-determination for the Indigenous Peoples of Alaska The Indigenous Peoples of Alaska continue our struggle to exercise to our right of self-determination. In the 1960`s we had the Federal Field Commission hearings which were preliminary to the enactment of the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The recent U.S. Supreme Court Venetie ruling declared that the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was an act of self-determination, yet this was an act of the U.S. Congress without the fully informed vote of the Indigenous Peoples of Alaska. The 1980`s gave us the Berger Commission Report as a study of self-determination and our special relationship to the land. In the early 1990`s we were given the Native Review Commission to study the problems facing the Indigenous Peoples of Alaska in relation to our pursuit to self-determination. Most recently the Governor of the State of Alaska conducted new hearings with the Rural Governance Commission with more new restricted findings telling the Indigenous Peoples of Alaska what is good for us. The point I would like to make, and the constructive message I bring to the working group is that: As long as an alien government and peoples come to our traditional Indigenous Homelands to continue to study and provide solutions for us, it is not an exercise of self-determination. Self-determination cannot be settled by the settler government, but only by the peoples concerned. As many commissions and studies that have been conducted upon us, the best answer to the problems facing us today, and in the future is best resolved by the Indigenous Peoples seeking for themselves, without any limitations or restrictions, our right of self-determination.

As a result of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, the United States government enacted the Alaska National Interest Conservation Act of 1980. The provisions of this act are supposed to provide for the continued protection of our right to take from the land for our health, well-being and survival. I would like to thank my Indigenous Sister from the Ahtna territory of Alaska for the intervention which illustrated the importance of the vegetation and wildlife as an important part of our diet. Yet today, we continue to seek answers which would provide us the recognition and protection of our right to feed our peoples our traditional food from the land we have survived off of for thousands of years. This is one aspect of our right of self-determination which is not secured. Again, self-determination is best expressed and resolved by the Indigenous Peoples concerned.

Taxation of the Indigenous Peoples of Alaska The Tununak Traditional Council has also requested research regarding taxation of Indigenous Peoples in Alaska. Again the Venetie decision of 1998 ruled against the Tribal taxation in Alaska. We are continuing to research the issue and we would like to bring our findings to the Working Group in the future. Quyana Caknak , "thank you very much"


Indigenous Peoples and Nations Coalition
Tununak Traditional Elders Council

17th Session 26-30 July 1999
30 July Item 8 Land Rights

Warm Greetings and Camai to all distinguished participants:

I would like to thank Miguel Alfonso Martinez for reference 18 to paragraph 49, which includes the 1867 Treaty of Cession relating to the purchase of Alaska. It is correct that the Indigenous Peoples of Alaska were third parties and not part of the negotiation to the treaty in any way.

This is very significant. I have discovered more documents prior to the 1867 Treaty of Cession which clearly refute Russian title and dominion to Alaska. The United States Congress went into executive session on 15 December 1824 to discuss a set of Diplomatic communication which gives the historical and legal reasons why Russia had not aquired absolute title to Alaska. (Documents included) Further, in these memoranda the United States fully recognize the Indigenous Peoples of Alaska as "Independent Tribes inhabiting an independent territory." In this memoranda, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams cites Vattel and his treatise Law of Nations.

Madame Chair, this series of confidential diplomatic memoranda from the United States to Russia is less than 50 years prior to the so called 1867 Treaty of Cession. The revelation of this information is very significant that, the Indigneous Peoples of Alaska were only a third party to the treaty. Therefore, the Indigenous Peoples of Alaska are not legally bound to admit to the treaty. Russia had no right to "sell" Alaska, since the absolute title was recognized to be in the dominion of the Indigenous Peoples of Alaska.

In United States v the State of Alaska, the 1975 United States Supreme Court found that " The cession of all the territory and domain possessed by Russia on the Continent of America and in the adjacent islands, under an 1867 treaty between Russia and the United States (15 Stat 539), was effectively a quitclaim, and the United States thereby acquired whatever dominion Russia had possessed immediately prior to cession.

I remind also, that the United States Supreme Court Johnson v McIntosh decision which derived the reduced aboriginal title, was concluded in 1823. This places us outside the scope and obligation of this discriminating decision.

Alaska was recognized under article 73 of the United Nations Charter. Article 2, paragraph 7 of the United Nations Charter also places those recognized on the list of non-self-governing-territories as not properly being within the metropolitan of the administering state, and outside of domestic jurisdiction.

Since Resolution 1469, 12 December 1959, removing Alaska and Hawaii from the list of non-self-governing territories was proscribed as an opinion, we have the right to bring forth this information to correct the facts relating to the removal from the list.

This information is vitally important, as it is evidence that the Indigenous Peoples of Alaska are, and continue to be, recognized as a State of Peoples in modern international law.

Madame Chair, and Proffessor Martinez, I hope this newly discovered information will be reflected in both of your studies.

Quyana Caknak, thank you very much.


WGIP presentation
Voices of the Bering Sea, Paimiut Traditional Council, Native Council of Port Hedien

17TH Session - WGIP Agenda item 5

Good afternoon Madame Daes, governments and delegates,

Thank you for this opportunity to speak to the Working Group on Indigenous Populations our relationship to the land. As a grassroots Indigenous organization formed to promote the protection of the Bering Sea, we thank you for providing the opportunity to discuss our relationship to the land and sea.

Our worldviews share a common basis, in simple terms, everything has soul - inua. It is from the worldview that the desire arose to protect the land - nuna. Harold Napoleon, a Yupik scholar from Paimiut, notes in his work the close relationship between inua and nuna in our worldviews. We identify ourselves by the villages we are from.

Alaska Natives were forced outside of their worldview to assert ownership of the land under the doctrine of Aboriginal Title. Alaska Natives asserted a right to their homelands to stop the State of Alaska from taking the land. To clear title to the oil fields in Prudoe Bay, the State of Alaska, the oil, and prominent Alaskans lobbied Congress to settle Alaska Native land claims. Congress created corporations and put the land in corporate control as the corporations main asset further separting our worldview from the land.

Our land became an asset under corporate control. The trees, animals, minerals, etc. became resources. So in less than a decade we went from belonging to the place of our birth to asserting western concepts of ownership and rights, to an imposed corporate structure in which the land is an asset on a balance sheet. All the aspects of that land became a resource. Please consider the consequences to ones psychological well-being and the sociological impacts to our societies.

As a suggestion for solutions, we suggest that in and on our own lands traditional laws and relationships be followed.