President's Message: Year End Review
Tribal leaders from across the United States and Center staff participated in consultations with U.S. officials to discuss the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Q’eqchi’ communities have experienced violent forced evictions carried out by agents of the mining company and state armed forces. Photo© MiMundo.org
Members of Q’eqchi’ communities gather to hear about legal options for stopping the nickel mine.
It has been a profound year for the Indian Law Resource Center, and we are excited to share with you some of these recent developments. This fall, the United States continues its review of its position on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. If the United States should choose to endorse the Declaration, it would be a major victory for indigenous peoples in the United States and around the world. We are proud to have been involved in the development of the Declaration for more than 30 years and are hopeful that the United States will endorse the Declaration very soon.
Our work, however, will not end with mere improvements of the law, through developments such as the UN Declaration. Our purpose is to advocate for indigenous communities in the Americas facing serious human rights violations. Violations of an indigenous community’s rights usually result in a community afflicted by poverty, ill health, and violence. Our role is to provide legal expertise, at no charge, to address threats to land rights, rights to self-government, and other important collective rights of indigenous peoples.
We are providing legal representation to indigenous communities on a range of issues. As you read this letter, Center staff lawyer Leonardo Crippa, is working with Maya Q’eqchi’ communities in Guatemala to help them prevent the development of a Canadian-owned nickel mine on their lands. This mine would mean the end of their way of life, as the largest nickel deposit is located on their lands. Working with our local partner, Defensoria Q’eqchi’, we filed a case in Guatemalan courts on behalf of one particular Q’eqchi’ community, Agua Caliente, to temporarily restrain mining activities. At the same time, we are preparing to ask the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to step in, protect the rights of the Maya Q’eqchi’, shut down the mine, and defend their land rights.
These issues and others facing indigenous peoples are critical. Your support is a vital part of this important work to assist indigenous peoples fight for their human rights, their cultures, their ways of life, and to protect their rights to land, territories and natural resources.
Please consider a generous gift today to help us continue this important work. Together we can make a difference!
Robert T. Coulter