The Paris Agreement: An “Incremental Advance” for International Recognition of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Some members of the Global Indigenous Peoples Caucus at COP21 in Paris
Paris, France – The 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC-COP21) officially adopted the Paris Agreement on Saturday, December 12, 2015.  The Agreement, with the legal force of a UN Treaty, was agreed to by all the 195 States (countries) present.  Once ratified by at least 55 States, it will go into legal force in 2020.  It commits all countries, for the first time ever, to cut their carbon emissions while also recognizing the special circumstances of developing countries.  The States also adopted the “Paris Decision” which is not legally binding, but commits States to immediately begin the process of reducing greenhouse emissions that cause climate change.
Some commentators are denouncing the Paris Agreement as a failure while others are hailing it as an historic triumph.  But for Indigenous Peoples, the Paris Agreement can be seen as another step forward for the recognition of their rights in international law.
The International Indigenous Peoples Forum of Climate Change (IIPFCC) and the Indigenous Peoples Caucus representing over 200 indigenous delegates attending this session from around the world, was invited to make a formal statement at the COP21 closing plenary. The IIPFCC closing statement, presented by elder Frank Ettawageshik (Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians), highlighted the three key messages advocated by Indigenous Peoples during the two-week session.  These included a call for the rights of Indigenous Peoples [to] be recognized, protected, and respected within a broad human rights framework in both the preamble and the operative sections of the Agreement; a temperature goal of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius increase over pre-industrial levels; and recognition, respect for and use of Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge, with their free, prior, and informed consent, in measures for adaption to climate change.   The IIPFCC statement, while expressing that Indigenous Peoples were “keenly disappointed” at the shortfalls in meeting these calls, noted that all three Indigenous Peoples messages were “addressed to some degree” in the final Agreement.
In particular, the inclusion of “the rights of Indigenous Peoples” in the preamble paragraph of the Agreement, achieved despite the consistent opposition of some States throughout the process, is a significant and unprecedented step forward.  This is the first time this phrase has appeared unqualified in a legally binding UN Treaty, environmental or otherwise.  The same phrase was included the preamble of the Paris Decision, although both say that States “should consider”, while Indigenous Peoples and human rights advocates called for the use of the stronger word  “shall”.
As noted by hereditary Chief Damon Corrie, Lokono Arawak of Barbados, “strong support by a group of States including Philippines, Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, Chile, Tuvalu, Indonesia, Canada and others, standing in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples throughout the negotiations, was required to achieve these inclusions in the final Agreement.
Despite disappointment that the phrase ‘rights of Indigenous Peoples’ and Human Rights in general did not also appear in the Agreement’s operative section, International Chief, attorney and member of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) Wilton Littlechild, Ermineskin Cree Nation, clarified that “the preamble of a Treaty provides the context and framework for interpreting and implementing the entire document.”  The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties supports his assessment. On this basis, Chief Littlechild called the Paris Agreement an “incremental advancement for recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples in international law.”
The Paris Agreement also calls on State parties (countries) to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.” The 1.5 temperature goal was a core position not only of Indigenous Peoples, but the Small Island Developing States.
Article 7 of the Agreement addressing Adaptation affirms the need for a participatory, transparent, gender-sensitive approach based on science and “as appropriate, traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems”.  UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli Corpuz noted that Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge, innovations and practices are recognized in both the Agreement and the Decision, and stated that moving forward “the challenge is how to operationalize this decision.”
The inclusion of Indigenous Peoples’ core positions both in the Paris Agreement and Decision was the result of the monumental, coordinated and unified efforts by the Indigenous Peoples Caucus throughout COP21.  Despite the shortfalls, the inclusion of “the rights of Indigenous Peoples” in both preambles provides a basis for future advocacy to ensure that all programs addressing Climate Change are carried out with respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples as affirmed in the UN Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including land and resource rights, free prior and informed consent, traditional knowledge and Treaty rights.


Indigenous Leaders from Around the World Meet at COP21 in Paris

Kayapo Chief Raoni Metuktire of Brazil and Kasike Roberto Mukaro Borrero,
President of the United Confederation of Taino People meet in Paris. 
Paris, France (UCTP Taino News) - About 250 indigenous leaders who engaged in a series of unprecedented consultations in the Arctic, North America, Asia, Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, Russia and Eastern Europe, and Africa finalized their proposals to COP21 on Monday. The delegates are now actively lobbying governments to include the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the COP21 agreement. The indigenous leaders are also calling on countries to adopt a goal of keeping the global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming with the view of further lowering it to one degree Celsius. According to experts, the disastrous and possibly irreversible tipping point of climate change is 2°C. Among this historic and diverse gathering of indigenous leadership are Chief Damon Corrie of the Caribbean Amerindian Development Organization (CADO) and Kasike Roberto Mukaro Agueibana Borrero, President of the United Confederation of Taino People

UCTPTN 11.30.2015


Taino Attends Keystone XL Rejection Celebration in South Dakota

Taino Community member Heriberto Guaragua'niki of the Guainia Taino Tribe
addresses Keystone Rejection Victory Celebration in South Dakota
on behalf of the United Confederation of Taino People
Mission, South Dakota (UCTP Taino News) - Taino community member Heriberto Guaragua'niki Martinez attended the "Success through Prayer" Keystone Rejection Victory Celebration in South Dakota on November 14, 2015. The event was hosted by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and featured many speakers including grassroots leaders like Faith Spotted Eagle and various supporters who advocated against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Martinez, a member of the Guainia Taino Tribe was asked to officially represent the United Confederation of Taino People at the event by UCTP President, Roberto Mukaro Borrero. 

The UCTP actively protested against the proposed pipeline in solidarity with North American Indigenous Tribal Nations on the front lines of the fight against the Keystone KXL. Organizers of the event including elder Chief Duane Hollow Horn Bear requested that Martinez share remarks with those gathered. Martinez shared historical information about the Taino and he recounted how community members attended marches and wrote letters to government officials against the pipeline. He also shared how the Boricua community, including Taino People, recently defeated a gas pipeline proposed for the island of Boriken (Puerto Rico). 

On November 6, President Barack Obama denied the permit to carry tar-sands crude oil from TransCanada Corporation into the United States through the proposed KXL pipeline. The "Success through Prayer" Keystone Rejection Victory Celebration was held at the Sinte Gleska University. 

UCTPTN 11.18.2015


Lokono Chief Damon Corrie Attends Climate Change Consultation in Peru

Chief Damon Corrie (Lokono Arawak) presents a Taino necklace to
Lima meeting Chairperson Benito Callixto, head of the Indigenous Forum
of Abya Yala (FIAY in Spanish). The gift made was made by Taino leader and artist
Roberto Mukaro Borrero and presented on behalf of the Caribbean Amerindian Development Organization (CADO) and the United Confederation of Taino People.
Lima, Peru (UCTP Taino News) - Lokono Arawak leader Damon Corrie attended the UN Climate Conference (COP21) Regional Consultation for Latin America and the Caribbean in Lima, Peru from 12-15 October 2015. The consultation sought to consolidate regional positions on Climate Change, which would add to outcomes of similar consultations being conducted around the world. The Indigenous Peoples Global Climate Change Consultations are an initiative of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC) in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Corrie was the only indigenous representative from a Caribbean Small Island State in attendance. Speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Amerindian Development Organization (CADO) and the United Confederation of Taino People (UCTP) Corrie expressed concerns of Indigenous Peoples of Caribbean small islands including global sea level and temperature rise, increasingly intense hurricanes and tropical storms, food sovereignty, and unusual rain and drought patterns. Chief Corrie intends to be present at and share these concerns, among others, at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), which will take place in Paris, France 30 Nov. - 11 December 2015. 

UCTPTN 10.16.2015 


Ramapough Lenape and Taino Declare Unity on Indigenous Peoples Day

Randall's Island, NY (UCTP Taino News) – An historic “Declaration of Unity” was signed between the Ramapough Lenape Nation and the United Confederation of Taino People on Indigenous Peoples Day, October 12, 2015. The treaty signing was a special event held during a daylong gathering of Indigenous Peoples organized by the Redhawk Native American Arts Council; the American Indian Community House; Kichwa Nation; and the United Confederation of Taino People on Randall's Island in New York. 

Ramapough Lenape Sachem Dwaine “Maqua” Perry and Roberto “Mukaro Agueibana” Borrero, the president of the United Confederation of Taino People (UCTP) were the main signatories of the treaty with a number of tribal members acting as witnesses. 

Sachem Perry remarked on the importance of this level of recognition and solidarity between Indigenous Peoples. President Borrero highlighted the spiritual significance of signing the document on October 12. Both leaders looked forward to more Nations and Peoples affirming their solidarity in this way in the near future. 

 UCTP Taino News 10.13.2015


Street Co-Naming Honors Matinecock Nation of Oueens and Long Island, NY

Chief Harry Wallace of the Unkechaug Nation,
Chief Osceola Townsend of the Matinecock
Nation, and Chief Roberto Mukaro Borrero
of the Guainia Taino Tribe. 

Little Neck, NY (UCTP Taino News) – The indigenous Matinecock Nation was honored in Little Neck on Monday, October 5, 2015 with the unveiling “Matinecock Way”, the new co-name of Northern Boulevard and Marathon Parkway. The special ceremony was the culmination of a joint effort by Matinecock descendants, the Bayside Historical Society, Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside), Community Board 11, the Douglaston-Little Neck Community Library and other community partners. 

“Today we honor their legacy as a noble and harmonious people who remain our neighbors,” Councilman Vallone said. 

“Long before the arrival of Europeans, the Matinecock Tribe called the areas of what is now Douglaston and Little Neck home” stated Assemblyman Braunstien. 

In solidarity with the Matinecock and their Chief Osceola Townsend, various representatives of other indigenous Nations were attendance at the historic event including Chief Harry Wallace of the Unkechaug Nation and Roberto “Mukaro Agueibana” Borrero, President of the United Confederation of Taino People and chief of the Guainia Taino Tribe. 

The Matinecock are a branch of the Algonquin Indigenous language and cultural group, and once inhabited villages where Flushing, College Point, Bayside and Douglaston now stand. 

UCTPTN 10/06/2015


OAS draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Position the Indigenous Caucus of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas

Distinguished Chairman of the Permanent Council, we the representatives of Indigenous Peoples want to express our position in regards to the last session of negotiations of the working group responsible for drafting the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We regret that some States insist to hinder negotiations which have been held for more than 17 years, by introducing at the last minute, new text to make the provisions in the American Declaration ambiguous, below the standards of the Declaration of the United Nations and not recognize the rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is contrary to international human rights law. 

The Caucus considers this a vile disrespect and bad faith and will not accept any disposition that limits the human rights of Indigenous Peoples to the constitutions, domestic laws and public interest and allow the continued violation of indigenous rights and destroy all progress we have achieved in the American Declaration.

The Indigenous Caucus denounces before the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs, the Permanent Council and the General Assembly that the conditions for the adoption of an American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas do not exist, because there is no respect for the principles of the negotiation process that led Indigenous Peoples to the negotiation of an American Declaration without weakening it and without taking it below the standards of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We ask the Committee on Legal Affairs, the Permanent Council and the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), to take the necessary measures to enable the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples in the discussion and adoption of the American Declaration in an environment of respect and equality.

We the Indigenous Peoples will not accept any language that is contrary to the UN Declaration. We Indigenous Peoples reject and denounce the text of the American Declaration submitted for discussion and consider it illegitimate.

Having said that and in view of the fact that there are no conditions for negotiations at this eighteenth session, we the indigenous peoples remove ourselves from the negotiating table and will not recognize any text.

Washington D.C. 15th May, 2015.

Contact: Anita Tzec anitatzec@yahoo.com


Say No to Racism in Puerto Rico!

Recently, the University of Puerto Rico’s School of Law filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights citing the violation of human rights in Puerto Rico.A news article entitled "Human Rights in Puerto Rico; Are they making racism invisible?" published on March 12th at “El Post Antillano”, responded to the complaint critiquing the absence of the subject of Racism against Black communities, afro-descendants, and Indigenous Peoples in Puerto Rico.

Providing an example of current climate of racism against Indigenous Peoples in Puerto Rico,a group of radical pro-Spain Puerto Ricans, “Autonomía para Puerto Rico”, led by its president, Iván Arrache, recently launched a campaign seeking to remove references to the Indigenous Taino Peoples from school books used on the Island. The pro-Spain group also seeks to present a more "positive" image of Spanish Conquistadors in school curriculum. This group’s core political position is that Puerto Rico should be re-annexed to Spain and Puerto Ricans should again be subjects of the Spanish Crown. They claim thousands of followers on the island including former political figures and members of the Puerto Rican Board of Education.

In response to these racists positions against Indigenous Peoples and the People of Puerto Rico, a respected community member and representative of the United Confederation of Taino People, Tai Pellicier (Tai Pelli) posted a professional, well-documented response to these statements; she was subsequently slandered by members of the racist group in question; her personal Face Book page was hacked and rendered inaccessible. The President of the radical group, Ivan Arrache, has claimed responsibility for this cyber-attack taking place during Women’s History Month, March 2015.

The United Confederation of Taino People is calling on all people of good conscience to join us in expressing solidarity for our sister Tai Pellicier (Tai Pelli) and to denounce the racist attempt to remove the Taino from school text books and the intent to present the conquistador in a more "positive manner". In addition, we condemn violations against the basic human right of self-determination and all forms of racism, especially against those who proudly affirm indigenous Taino heritage, as well as institutionalized racism against Black communities and Afro-Descendants in Puerto Rico.


World Conference on Indigenous Peoples Follow-up: Deadline April 6

Indigenous Peoples around the world are invited to provide their valuable input in responding a questionnaire on the follow up to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples 2014 by 6 April 2015 at: