3/30/2006

CARIBBEAN INDIGENOUS REPRESENTATION AT SEVENTH SESSION OF THE OAS DRAFT DECLARATION


President Lula Da Silva of Brazil meets with indigenous leaders at the Presidential Palace in Brasilia during the OAS.

BRASILIA, BRAZIL (UCTP Taino News) – Representing indigenous organizations and peoples of the Americas, about 55 indigenous delegates participated in the Organization of American States' (OAS) "Seventh Meeting of Negotiations in the Quest for Points of Consensus", which was held in Brasilia, Brazil, from March 21 to 25, 2006.

Among the indigenous delegates present, was Damon Gerard Corrie, a Lokono-Arawak who attended the Brazilian session on behalf of the Eagle Clan Lokono-Arawaks, the United Confederation of Taíno People & the Pan Tribal Confederacy of Indigenous Tribal Nations. A hereditary Chief of the Eagle Clan Arawaks who resides in Barbados with his family, Corrie actively participated throughout the meetings as a member of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus.

Corrie, like the majority of Indigenous representatives participating in the session were able to attend due to the tireless efforts of Mr. Jorge Sanin of the OAS. Mr. Sanin is credited for working to obtain the sponsorships for those representatives who could not obtain travel funding to Brazil.

While the work and the attention of the Indigenous Caucus focused on the "quest for points of consensus" of the OAS draft declaration, delegates also participated in other related activities.

The entire Caucus was invited to attend a special ceremony by President Lula Da Silva of Brazil at the Presidential Palace in Brasilia. Rex Lee Jim of the Navajo Nation read an address to his Excellency President Da Silva on behalf of the Caucus. Other indigenous delegates attending the ceremony were availed the opportunity to say a few words to the President, shake his hand - and even receive a “surprising” but warm embrace from the Brazilian President. The only Caribbean indigenous representative in attendance at this ceremony; Corrie remarked "It is amusing that I can meet with the President of Brazil - the most powerful country in South America - yet I cannot meet the Prime Minister of my own country Barbados."

Linking the international work taking place at the OAS to the United Nations, Corrie was the first indigenous delegate to sign a petition, which called for the United Nations to urgently adopt the United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Miskito Nation of Nicaragua was the second signatory to the document, and other indigenous signatories supported the initiative in a clear display of solidarity among those present. The petition was circulated by Paul Joffe of the Grand Council of Crees in Quebec Canada.

In an unfortunate turn of events, during the course of the meetings, Mr. Albert DeTerville, a representative of Saint Lucia, circulated a letter that elicited a protest from the indigenous representative of Colombia and the government delegation of Colombia. In response, the Caucus met on Friday night, March 24 and at the start of the meeting on Saturday, March 25, Héctor Huertas (Panama) took the floor to say that the Caucus regretted the circulation of the letter and considered it interference in the internal affairs of a country. Huertas also stated that type of action affected the transparency and credibility of the Caucus and that DeTerville had resigned from further participation with the Caucus. DeTerville, working in collaboration with a representative from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Oswald T. Robinson (Garifuna), were the only other individuals identifying themselves as Caribbean Indigenous Peoples in attendance at the session.

Notably, the only CARICOM member state of the OAS to attend the seventh meeting was Suriname. The State Representative of Suriname made known the that the constitution of Suriname "allows International Human Rights Laws to take precedence over the Suriname Constitution." It was noted by several indigenous delegates that the lack of attendance of CARICOM member State representatives could be interpreted as a sign that a majority of Caribbean State Governments have little genuine interest in Indigenous affairs. In stark contrast, Corrie noted that the “government of Brazil was the session’s greatest supporter of Indigenous Peoples as well as a wonderful host to the Indigenous representatives who visited from nearly every country in the Americas.”

Corrie also praised the work of FUNAI and Ms. Azelene Kaingang, who he and others felt deserved much of the “praise and credit for a generally successful seventh meeting of negotiations in the quest for points of consensus.”

On the final day of the session, and in an historic first for Caribbean Indigenous Peoples, Damon Gerard Corrie was asked to read the 2 page closing Statement on behalf of the Indigenous Caucus of the Americas; an honor which he accepted and undertook on Saturday March 25th 2006.

The Organization of American States (OAS) is an inter-governmental organization that brings together the countries of the Western Hemisphere to strengthen cooperation and advance common interests. It is the region’s premier forum for multilateral dialogue among governments and for their concerted action.

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