Washington, DC (UCTP Taíno News) – Indigenous Peoples from throughout the Americas are gathered in the U.S. capital to participate in the Organization of American States (OAS) negotiations on the points of consensus of the draft American Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples.

Among those in attendance is the highly respected 'veteran' Indigenous rights activist June Lorenzo of the Laguna Pueblo Tribal Nation of the USA. During the "Day 2" morning caucus session, Lorenzo shared a very interesting fact of OAS history. She noted that in 1999, at the 1st session the OAS held concerning the draft American Declaration, the few Indigenous representatives who could afford to attend at their own expense were not allowed to participate in any meaningful way. They were relegated to sitting at the back of the room as observers and were allowed one 10 minute speech at the very end of the entire week.

This situation changed when the then OAS Ambassador for Antigua & Barbuda (a country that does not even have an existing pre-Colombian Indigenous population) realized the wrong being perpetrated on the First Nations of the Americas and heroically gave up his seat to Hector Huertas, a Kuna representative from Panama. This act set the precedent that gave Indigenous Peoples the opportunity to fully participate in all the OAS proceedings concerning the Draft American Declaration.

Subsequently, a Specific Fund was established by the OAS to enable many more indigenous representatives from all over the Western Hemisphere to be able to travel to wherever the sessions were being held in the Americas.

Also in attendance at the meeting, Barbados born Damon Corrie is deeply interested in finding out why after first opening the door to Indigenous Peoples - have Caribbean States have seemingly ignored the draft American Declaration process. Corrie who is of Guyanese Lokono-Arawak descent, has attended 6 of the 11 sessions and has only seen 3 Caribbean State representatives in attendance during his entire time at the OAS.

Corrie added that "At the very least I would expect the OAS Ambassadors of Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica and Belize - all countries with existing descendants of pre-Colombian Indigenous populations - to be in attendance at every one of these sessions "

"Moreover, just for the very tremendously significant fact that the Caribbean was historically the first area of the Americas to suffer from the arrival of Columbus and the ensuing European invasion and colonization of the 'New World', should make the Caribbean States take interest in these modern day historic proceedings, which avail them the opportunity to right some of those wrongs."

He continued stating for example that "Barbadians think Indigenous issues do not concern them, but this is only because they do not know their own history. Barbadians do not know that before the African Slave Trade that Barbados was the key commercial center in the Caribbean for the Amerindian Slave trade - buying and selling & importing and exporting Amerindian captives from North America, South America and other Caribbean islands" These are facts recorded in Corrie's book 'The Forgotten Amerindian History of Barbados".

Corrie also noted that "Caribbean people universally condemn the genocide initiated by Columbus on the Amerindian Peoples of yesteryear, and Caribbean political leaders are quite fond of the topic when it suits them, but here and now in the 21st century - when Caribbean States can actually make a huge positive difference and help the surviving remnant populations of that heinous historic injustice - they choose instead to turn their collective backs."

Expressing frustration with the situation, Corrie stated "This on-going 'no-show' by Caribbean States at these OAS Draft American Declaration proceedings is a real source of embarrassment for Caribbean Indigenous representatives. We leave our families to travel thousands of miles to be here and try to make a positive difference in the world for our present and future generations only to see time and time again that the Caribbean States' OAS Ambassadors who are based right here in this very building cannot even make the effort to walk down the hall to participate."

UCTPTN 12.10.2008

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