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Chief Oren Lyons discusses sovereignty

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Published on Dec 20, 2007

O n Sept. 13, the United Nations overwhelmingly passed a resolution of tremendous importance to the indigenous people of the world, but did you hear about it?
Chief Oren Lyons , faithkeeper and chief of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga people, was in Taos Saturday (Dec. 8) to help inaugurate the Yaxche Learning Center's new facility at the former R.C. Gorman residence in Las Colonias. Before the ceremonies got underway, Lyons taped an interview with The Taos News Media Center in which he spoke about the UN's Declaration of Rights for Indigenous Peoples, which was passed with 143 votes in favor.
This was a significant vote even if all 192 members of the general assembly were in attendance. But, what is even more significant, Lyons said in the interview, is that there were 11 abstentions and four nations that voted against it. Those who objected to the nonbinding declaration were New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States, each of which have large numbers of indigenous people.
The reasons the U.S. decided not to support the declaration was because one of the articles states "indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired."
According to a Reuters news story, this was considered controversial because "that could potentially put in question most of the land ownership in countries, such as those that opposed the declaration, whose present population is largely descended from settlers who took over territory from previous inhabitants."

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