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Proposed treaty could protect nations

Suggests formation of United League of Indigenous Nations

OLYMPIA, Wash. - A new proposal seeks to solve problems common to American
Indians and Pacific Rim indigenous nations. The 'Treaty of Indigenous
Nations of the Western Hemisphere' is being designed to stop cultural
property theft, re-establish ancient trade agreements and co-manage
environmental protections for tribal homelands.

"Those are the goals," said Alan Parker, coordinator and former staff
director to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, "to enable us to
protect our cultural property by unification of nations, thus strengthening
the role of American Indians and Pacific Rim Natives around the principle
of all peoples respecting indigenous law."

The Umatilla Tribes of Oregon presented this proposal, which would create a
United League of Indigenous Nations, last June to the National Congress of
American Indians, after Maori professor Graham Smith of New Zealand
suggested the enactment of an Indigenous Nations Treaty. Native scholars
and traditional leaders realized that something needed to be done to
protect their cultural property.

The National Congress of American Indians immediately recognized the
importance of such an agreement and established a Special Committee of
Indigenous Nations Relationships. Delegates were appointed to meet with
Native representatives from Canada, Australia and New Zealand. A draft
treaty was written and submitted for consideration.

The following preamble to the treaty relates the essence of its intent:

"The Creator gave stewardship to indigenous peoples to protect and manage
the Earth's resources, including all things natural, cultural, spiritual
and sacred. Indigenous people are prayerful people who live in harmony with
the Earth; and indigenous wealth is not found in monetary values, but in
the gift of life from the Earths' natural resources.

"We the Indian nations, tribes, First Nations, indigenous nations, and
indigenous peoples of North America and the Pacific Rim that are signatory
to this treaty, in mutual recognition of our inherent sovereign powers,
hereby reestablish political, social and economic relations, and
cooperative control of all natural resources considered essential to the
cultural, spiritual and religious rights of our peoples."

Principles were then drawn up and circulated for discussion. "Other
indigenous peoples of the world are interested in how American Indians have
found a way to work together through the NCAI to represent their interest
as a group through credentialing," said Parker in his Feb. 27 presentation
to the NCAI in Washington, D.C.

"Tribal delegates present their credentials to the NCAI committee in the
form of a resolution that identifies them as the tribe's representative and
able to make decisions on behalf of the tribe. The credentialing process is
seen as a possible model for the Maori people so that not just anyone could
claim to be a representative. There is interest on an international level
as well. There is protocol among nations called international diplomacy
that dictates how nations deal with each other. This treaty would be
indigenous international diplomacy," said Parker.

The NCAI decided that the next step should be a full discussion on the
treaty at its midyear conference, June 13 - 15 at the Oneida Indian
Nation's homeland in Wisconsin.