| International Indian Treaty Council |
CONSEJO INTERNACIONAL DE TRATADOS INDIOS
Commission on Political Prisoners, Prisoner’s Rights and Persons Under Detention
International Indian Treaty Council Conference
Wednesday 6th – Saturday 9th February 2002
Kahutapu Marae, Wairoa, Tauranga Moana
The United Nations has found that the United States is not complying with its international human rights obligations regarding Indigenous religions and spiritual practices and beliefs. The United States suppression of religious freedom and practice is a continuation of genocide and ethnocide with the criminalization of religious ceremonies integral to Indigenous ways of life. These governmental polices and practices are intended to destroy Indigenous Peoples, their culture and religions.
This commission condemns the practice of denying Indigenous prisoners access to their spiritual leaders, subjecting spiritual leaders to the indignities of strip searches and other inappropriate action that non-Indigenous religious leaders are not subject to, and the “open door” policies which allow non-Indigenous prisoners to participate, desecrate and disrupt the integrity of the ceremonies. We condemn the inappropriate and disrespectful handling and treatment of religious objects by prison administrators and personnel. We abhor the prison practices and policies that allow prison guards to enter sweat lodges or disrupt these and other ceremonies, that compel prisoners to use weed treated with toxins for their sacred fires, and practices and policies that enable non-Indigenous individuals to control, dominate or conduct Indigenous ceremonies.
We also condemn prison policies which have the affect of impeding incarcerated Indigenous women’s access to their children and to female Indigenous religious leaders and counselors, and policies which ignore the unique needs of incarcerated women and their families.
We also note that the common practice of transferring prisoners far from their families serves to break family contact, contrary to the clearly established principles set forth in various international human rights instruments. The hardships caused by this practice are particularly overwhelming to Indigenous families, many of whom live in very remote locations without transportation or the means to visit their incarcerated loved ones.
With regard to Economic and Social rights guaranteed by international standards, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we also express grave concern for Indigenous prisoners who are denied parole because they cannot pre-arrange employment as a condition of parole.
This Commission is also concerned about the use if Indigenous prisoners as labor, under slave-like conditions, for the economic benefit of private corporations, their shareholders and private industry. This concern extends to the privatization and commercialization of prisons and the criminal justice system.
The Commission can only comment that the pre-service and in-service training of prison administrators, guards and employees must include cultural sensitivity and awareness. Such training should be designed by Indigenous spiritual leaders. This would contribute significantly toward solutions to many of the problems identified in this document and is essential to any good-faith efforts by the federal, state and provincial governments to address the human rights concerns of Indigenous prisoners.
Finally, the IITC Commission on Prisoners, like the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and numerous international Non-Governmental Organizations, soundly condemns the United States in its use of the death penalty and in particular, the disproportionate state-sanctioned executions of people of color, juveniles and the mentally infirm.
As a result of the racism inherent in the federal and state justice systems, Native Americans are incarcerated at a greater rate than any other racial or ethnic group in North America. For Indigenous Peoples, prisons are colonial institutions and are a central mechanism of the colonization process. As a necessary process of de-colonization, the International Indian Treaty Council must continue its advocacy at the international level for the rights if the Indigenous prisoners to practice their religions while incarcerated. This includes the right of the prisoners to have access to bona fide Native spiritual leaders/counselors, sacred medicines and instruments such as sage, cedar, sweet grass, tobacco, corn pollen, sacred pipes, medicine bags, eagle feathers and headbands, and ceremonies such as the sweat lodge and pipe ceremonies. Indigenous programs should be designed and conducted for the incarcerated Indigenous prisoners by Indigenous leaders recognized by Indigenous communities. The protocol for these programs and activities should be in the control of legitimate Indigenous spiritual leaders/elders in order to ensure the protection and integrity of Indigenous ceremonies and practices.
In conclusion, the Commission noted that because religious and cultural programs designed by and for Indigenous peoples are the only hope for the healing and revitalization of Indigenous prisoners, it is only through the development and implementation of such programs that Indigenous families, communities and Nations begin the process of healing and revitalization – i.e. de-colonization.
We call for support for the following actions by communities:
Ø Monitor the Police – Video police activity, AIM and community patrols
Ø Community Advocates – Families need to be involved
Ø Sue the Police - Take to them court for abuses
Ø Police Brutality – collect documentation and evidence
Ø Establish a Commission to investigate the Police and their activities of harassment
Ø Study Maori Rights – Study Treaty Rights
Ø Continue the Traditions and Customs in the Prisons
Ø Recognize that 80% of the Prison Population are Maori in Aotearoa – Rehabilitation, not incarceration is necessary
Ø Recognize that Alcohol is a Main Factor in the Incarceration of Indigenous Peoples both in the US and Aotearoa
Aho! Mitakuye Oyasin!
Adopted by Consensus February 9, 2002
Adopted by Consensus, February 9, 2002
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