Tuesday, May 1, 2012

UN Speech

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Consultation

May 3, 2012 at the University of Tulsa’s Native American Law Center

            Ya’ah teh. Shey ya Millicent Pepion enshiiye.  Todikoshi inslev’. Blackfeet bushachiingi. Tachiini a da shi chey. Billagana a da shi noli. Hos do da’ na sha. A he’ hee onoosltso.

            Greetings, everything is good. Who I am called is Millicent Pepion that is my name. The Bitter Water People from Whipper Well are my maternal and first clan. The Blackfeet People are my paternal and second clan. My great grandmothers are Their Forehead is Red People. My great grandfathers are White people.  I’m from the really hot area of the world (Phoenix, AZ). Thank you, all of you who came through this doorway and will leave out the same doorway.

            I am a student at a tribal university originally founded in 1884 as the United States Indian Industrial Training School, an off reservation Indian boarding school. The Haskell Indian Nations University community has introduced me to the practice of showing higher levels of respect for all of my relations. This summer I -with other Haskell students and supporters from Lawrence, Kansas- will journey from the Wakarusa Wetlands, a sacred, endangered place located directly behind our campus, to Washington D.C. on what we are calling the Trail of Broken Promises.

            This is a spiritual issue. We believe that Congress needs to address specific legislation to protect sacred places in an inclusive manner for all people whom those places affect. To make this point known we will carry the Protection of Native American Sacred Places Act. By walking the Trail of Broken Promises we call attention to the spiritual interconnectedness that we as human beings have with our environment and all elements within it.

            We declare that a mutual respect and dignity be given to Native American people in concerns that affect our home communities. We respectfully request that the U.S. government adhere to our cultural, social, medical, environmental, and spiritual interests that the Trail of Broken Promises members seek to protect.

             Article three of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples supports self-determination for indigenous communities. Certain policies have granted us the right to exercise self-determination in our education system’s design and curriculum. We yearn for the opportunity to teach the next generation how to build positive relationships with the environment through language revitalization, traditional storytelling, ceremonial and traditional cultural practices that enrich traditional ecological knowledge essential to surviving collectively in harmony with all life. We insist the U.S. government acknowledge and adhere to treaty and trust obligations that exist, legally binding contracts that safeguard our right to education.


            In addition, we contend that respect is given to the children. Seventh generation teachings are applicable to all life and explain that the future is directly proportional to its history. Our children need guidance, support, and love as they grow in the education environments that we have created. We need to protect the ecological and social habitats of these special places. Our foundation of learning must include lessons specific to the stories and histories of Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas and all over the world.

            The Trail of Broken Promises seeks to educate the general public about a history of human beings who once thrived in this beautiful country abundantly and with social cultural practices more peaceful than our present situation. We seek to foster positive life-enhancement systems for plants, animals, and all our relations. Collective human action is needed to provide adequate consideration for future generations of all cultures.

            A balance between Native science and Western science can be achieved for the betterment of all life. As a Native American woman I have been told I must walk honorably on a middle ground centered between two paths: the red road and the black road. I must respect both worlds equally and simultaneously. This means in order to stabilize my existence I must incorporate my traditional teachings into a modern society.

            Since I have attended Haskell University I have learned that the Wakarusa Wetlands were formed 700,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age when the last Kansas glaciers melted. The White Plume People once inhabited the wetlands and were named after the Snowy Egret.  My instructors have also showed me the Wakarusa Wetlands are a place where I can talk with Mother Earth and realign the balance between myself and my environment through prayer and meditation. The Wakarusa Wetlands are a sacred place.

            In Kansas, most of the wetlands have been drained or lost at a rate that parallels the decline in population of Native peoples indigenous to Kansas. The Trail of Broken Promises is asking for help from local, state, tribal, and federal agencies in the hope that they will endorse policies that protect our land and cultures. Our children are counting on us.

            I forgive the U.S. government for what they did to my people. I forgive those who deliberately inflicted inter-generational trauma to my family. I offer forgiveness to all walks of life in hopes better relationships can be attained. I hope my offering is received in the spirit that it is given as we enter an era when it is most crucial to alert ourselves about the respect and understanding of adopting these standards for the benefit of all of our relations. It is the Trail of Broken Promises responsibility to educate all peoples of Mother Earth about this issue.

            The Trail of Broken Promises leaves Sunday, May 13th and will arrive in Washington D.C. on Monday, July 9th.

             A he’ hee shi ma nahvstav bilasthlini. I want to thank Mother Earth’s children meaning all of everything that Mother Earth has made: the mountains, tree people, plant people, winged people, four-legged people, insect people, human beings, all water, rocks, fire, clouds, air; everything that was given to us by Mother Earth thank you for listening. A he’ hee. Thank you.

By: Millicent Pepion