The International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) hosted a lunch-time event on 13 July during the 4th Session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP). The event was entitled “Advancing Dialogue on Treaties, Agreements and Other Constructive Arrangements between States and Indigenous Peoples within the UN System”. It began by looking back at Indigenous peoples’ participation in the United Nations, most notably, when Treaty Nations leaders were denied access to the League of Nations in 1923, and the 1974 Declaration of Continuing Independence of the Sovereign Native American Indian Nations. Presentations and discussion centered around the importance of treaties as sacred agreements and partnerships between Indigenous peoples and states, rooted in language, cultural tradition, and ceremony. They also called for greater international pressure upon states to implement existing treaties and agreements with Indigenous peoples, and to consider the effects of agreements between colonial governments and the successive governments on Indigenous peoples. Overall, it was stressed that treaties are an important part of Indigenous peoples’ inherent rights to self-determination, survival, and well-being; they also enshrine responsibilities to and senses of connection with territories and future generations.
Recent recognition of treaties as having international standing can be found in Article 37 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP); Article 23 of the OAS-proposed American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and former Special Rapporteur Miguel Alfonso Martinez’s “Study on treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements between States and indigenous peoples“. Speakers included Andrea Carmen, Chief Wilton Littlechild, Grand Chief Edward John, Jose Carlos Morales, Atayu Abdulani, and a representative from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.