Lummi to host historic meeting of the nations

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Proposed 'Treaty of Indigenous Nations' on the agenda

BELLINGHAM, Wash. - The Lummi Indian Nation has volunteered to host a historic meeting July 31 - Aug 2 between U.S. tribes and the First Nations of Canada to discuss the merits of a proposed ''Treaty of Indigenous Nations'' agreement.

''The purpose of the treaty is to create the foundation for an international political and economic alliance for trade relations to address the impacts of climate change, protect cultural properties, and to assert traditional rights to cross international borders,'' said Alan Parker, professor at Evergreen State College and co-chair of the National Congress of American Indians' Special Committee on Indigenous Nations Relationships.

The Special Committee met with the New Zealand Ngati Awa tribes of Aotearoa and First Nations in 2004, 2005 and 2006 to develop the draft treaty.

''The proposed treaty represents three years of consultation and deliberations. We believe that we have distilled the ideas and analysis of some of the best thinkers in the indigenous world in developing the proposal,'' Parker said.

Parker said he feels the primary objective behind the treaty is for indigenous nations to exercise their inherent right to govern themselves, given to them by the Creator and not from a colonial government.

He said, ''We do not need some other government's permission to enter into treaty agreements with each other to establish alliances. We need to create a new level of international law: the law of indigenous nations.''

This meeting, which followed on the heels of the welcoming ceremonies of the 2007 Paddle to Lummi Canoe Journey, is being sponsored by the Lummi Indian Business Council. Lummi tribal member Jewell James said, ''The Lummi Indian Nation is proud to be working on this international treaty dialogue. There is strength in numbers. We need to form a League of Nations to help each other expand in opportunities to assure international laws are applicable to our concerns and protective of our rights. We hope many indigenous nations join in this treaty effort.''

Time will be devoted to the four main topics of climate change, trade and commerce, cultural properties and border crossings. Native leaders in these fields will voice their concerns and share their wisdom in explaining ways to help indigenous nations support each other in the coming years of change.

''Global warming or the changing climate is already causing impacts to tribal cultural resources. Tribes generally cannot follow the species shift because of the limited areas we are legally bound to. We are tied to areas by treaties or other agreements with the U.S. that restrict our hunting and gathering,'' said Terry Williams, commissioner of Fisheries and Natural Resources for the Tulalip Tribe.

The leaders are suggesting that indigenous nations need to set their own ground rules and have an agreement available to implement the new strategies of survival.

James said, ''We are a border tribe with many relatives north of the U.S./Canada border. We recognize the cross-border issues all along the Canadian and Mexican borders and realize that other indigenous nations of Maori, Hawaiians, Australian aboriginals, Canadian aboriginals and Mexican Indians have the same common concerns. We must learn to come together to work in-common to create a better legal, social and economic atmosphere for our indigenous communities and nations worldwide.''

Nisqually elder Billy Frank Jr. of the Northwest Indian Fish Commission said, ''Don't be afraid of the changes coming. It's very important to start thinking about trading again with each other and we're doing that, but it has to be more. This treaty is so important, and we need to better understand it and sign off on it. We have to support each other and think 100 years out. The past agreements with the colonial governments have left us out of their planning, while taking our land, natural resources, our arts, drums, stories and now even our blood. This indigenous treaty gives us respect. We have to honor each other to have hope in life. I think of our children and children's children that are not even born yet. They need hope and this treaty can provide that seed.''

First Nations Grand Chief Edward John said, ''It is now up to the leaders of the indigenous nations to decide if they wish to exercise their sovereignty by entering in this treaty.''