Sand Hill Indians now Claim Manhattan

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On February 17, 2009, the oldest indigenous Native American tribe in NJ filed a lawsuit against the State of NJ, Governor Corzine, and his Administration, as well as the NJ Commission on American Indian Affairs. That lawsuit is still in Federal Court at this moment and has NOT been dismissed.

In fact, the scope of the case has expanded exponentially.  As of a new filing on June 16, 2010, the territory now includes the Island of Manhattan & Hudson areas, the State of Delaware and Eastern Pennsylvania as well as New Jersey.

The NJ Sand Hill Band of Lenape & Cherokee Indians (the Sand Hill) headed by Chief Yonaguska Holloway has appealed to the UN for assistance.  The UN is now representing the tribe and the case may actually move to The Hague if the tribe does not get justice through the American courts and through negotiations with the United States.

Judge Hayden, the Federal Judge who allegedly has been stalling this trial since last year, has taken early retirement, although no one involved in the case has been formally notified.

It’s rumored that the Federal government has finally stepped in, but they have not reached out directly to Chief Holloway.  As the Federal government appears to drag their feet and avoid the inevitable negotiating table, the stakes are getting bigger.

The Sand Hill are using this time to gather the evidence they need to make their case that much more ironclad.  Just over the past few months they have gathered more evidence of their claim not only to NJ but Manhattan, Delaware, and Eastern PA.

What began as a lawsuit in one state is morphing into the largest land claim ever made by Native Americans and is precedent-setting for the rest of the Indian Nations.  The problem confronting the Federal Government appears to be their inability to figure out how to even begin approaching this matter with the Sand Hills.

The ridiculousness of the situation is that a simple sit-down with President Obama over iced tea and pizza could go a long way towards resolving what is turning into a territorial crisis for the United States.

The Sand Hill are a patient and reasonable people, but everyone has a limit.  Justice delayed is justice denied, and as their rights have been trampled ever since they reached out a hand to Henry Hudson 400 year ago, their patience is now wearing thin.

It appears that the sheer magnitude of the situation is preventing any progress at all.  But like any other overwhelming problem, resolutions often begin with a simple conversation.

So far, only one NJ Congressman’s office (Congressman Steve Rothman) has had the foresight to contact representatives of the Sand Hill after Chief Holloway’s speech at the United Nations.  On three separate occasions thereafter, the Sand Hill Government Liaison contacted Rothman’s office.  The last time was to notify the Congressman of the latest filing and to request a meeting with him.   As of this writing there has been no acknowledgement of receiving either the motion or the request.

It might behoove the Congressman, as this is an election year, to get ahead of the situation, and score a political coup by meeting with Chief Holloway as a first step towards getting the Federal Government to the table without pressure from the United Nations.

I am seriously advising my elected officials to meet with Chief Holloway while his hand is still outstretched.  I have interviewed Chief Holloway about this many times over the past two years.  He has always been and still is willing to discuss this matter with the appropriate Federal officials in order to reach a reasonable conclusion.

Chief Yonaguska Holloway Addresses the UN

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On April 20, 2010, Chief Yonaguska Holloway of the New Jersey Sand Hill Band of Lenape and Cherokee Indians was invited to address the Assembly at the UN. I have been blogging about his case for the past two years. In February of 2009, Chief Holloway filed a lawsuit on behalf of his tribe because the State of New Jersey is trying to write them out of existence along with the Ani Tsalagi Onaselagi Northeastern Band (the oldest Cherokee tribe in NJ) and the federal judge appears to be stalling the case on purpose. The following is the entire text of Chief Holloway’s speech:


“Over sixty years ago, the General Assembly adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Afterward, the Country members were called upon to publicize the text of the Declaration and “to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read, and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories .” It is this very reason I stand here before you today.  The violation of basic human rights as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

   Over six hundred years ago, my ancestors lived and thrived along the shores of what is now the eastern seaboard of the United States of America.  The New Jersey Sand Hill Band of Lenape and Cherokee Indians are the direct lineal descendants of the original inhabitants of the land now known as the State of New Jersey.  Human remains, dating back almost two thousand years have been uncovered in this area.  DNA testing of these remains has linked them to me personally.

   We are a sovereign people, as were our ancestors at the time of the arrival of the first Europeans.  First the Dutch, then later, the British.  This is testified to by the fact that the early Europeans entered into and signed treaties with us, sovereign to sovereign.  These treaties kept certain rights unto us, including land, water, hunting, fishing and coastal areas being amongst them. The United  States, at the end of the Revolutionary War, as part of the agreement to end hostilities, agreed to honor and maintain these international treaties by accepting to act as a trustee.  They even went as far as to enact federal legislation to ensure that our rights would be protected.

   However, by 1802, the newly formed “State” of New Jersey had completely disregarded these treaties and federal laws, and most importantly, our basic human rights to even exist.  Over the next few decades, in an unsolicited invasion, our ancestral lands were seized, our people forcibly removed or slaughtered.  Those that survived were forced into hiding, in and around the lands that for millennium sustained us.  Not only were federal laws completely ignored by New Jersey, but they had no legal right to even act as a state, as they had not ratified their own state constitution until 1842.  All the while, the United States Federal Government turned a blind eye toward us, refusing to exercise their trust relationship with us that they had decades before accepted.

   As the only remaining “First Contact” Indian people on the eastern seaboard to legally address this gross misconduct, the stakes are very high.  We claim rights to the land and vast natural resources along the entire coastline of New Jersey, inland to the Delaware River.  Our ancestral home for thousands of years include, what is now called Port Elizabeth, Newark, Atlantic City, and Trenton. Just to name a few.  Also of importance is the fact that under these seized lands lies the largest fresh water quifer along the north east seaboard.  Other “First Contact” tribes have settled their claims after decades of legal battles, but none have had the tremendous impact of ours.

   After years of failed attempts to reconcile with the State of New Jersey, we were forced to take the state to Federal Court to prove our claim.  Unfortunately, because of the magnitude and the implications of the case, it has been purposely stalled and ignored in an attempt to defraud us and dispense with our international treaty rights.  We have even, in the course of the case, brought forth evidence that the State of New Jersey itself, in court, legal opinion and internal documents, admits that our lands have been seized illegally.  Various major archaeologists, universities, historians and other specialists are in agreement as to our claim and rights.

   It is not our intention to interfere with the continuity of the United State, or its national security.  However, it is our intention to take every avenue available to us up to and including international intervention, and the World Court if necessary.

   It is the very existence of our people that it at stake. And we have no intention of going into the night quietly!  I stand here to ask the international community for its support, assistance in whatever manner available to assist us in having our International rights respected and restored.

   It is our hope & prayer that this astute body and the global community will hear our long suppressed cry, and come to our aid!”

After Chief Yonaguska Holloway delivered his speech and the lunch break, U. S. Ambassador Susan Rice, in a moving speech, reiterated some of the points Chief Holloway had made earlier that day when he addressed the audience of Indigenous Leaders.

The ambassador announced that the U.S. is reconsidering its position on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights immediately on the heels of New Zealand’s reversal of its previous denial of the same rights. Australia,  Canada, New Zealand and the United States refused to sign the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Australia and New Zealand reversed their decisions.  The US and Canada are the only two countries left that have not reversed their position to guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples in their countries.  

Ambassador Rice’s statement was met by a standing ovation by Chief Holloway’s Entourage, various Chiefs of the Iroquois Nations and other Indigenous Nations who were in attendance during the General Assembly of the United Nations.

For more information on the UN Forum on Indigenous People:…

The Text of the Declaration:…

The timeline of the Sand Hill case against the State of New Jersey and documents involved in the case:….

Here is the text of Ambassador Rice’s speech at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, April 20, 2010


“In his Presidential Proclamation last fall honoring Native American Heritage Month, President Obama recognized that the “indigenous peoples of North America–the First American–have woven rich and diverse threads into the tapestry of our Nation’s heritage.” What is true in the Americas is true around the world. There is no true history that does not take into account the story of indigenous populations–their proud traditions, their rich cultures, and their contributions to our shared heritage and identity.

   But in the United States and many other parts of the world, indigenous communities continue to feel the heavy hand of history. Our first nations face serious challenges: disproportionate and dire poverty, unemployment, environmental degradation, health care gaps, violent crime, and bitter discrimination. Far more must be done–at home and abroad–to tackle these challenges, expand the circle of opportunity, and work with our Native communities to ensure they enjoy the security and dignity that all citizens deserve.

   President Obama is deeply committed to strengthening and building on government-to-government relationships among the United States and our tribal governments. Our Administration has moved quickly to launch programs to improve the lives of Native Americans. Shortly after his inauguration, the President appointed my colleague, Kimberly Teehee, as his Native American policy advisor and began extensive outreach to tribal leaders. In November of last year, President Obama invited representatives from each of our 564 Indian tribes in the United States to attend a White House Tribal Nations Conference. Nearly 500 tribal leaders participated–the most widely attended White House tribal meeting with the President, Cabinet Secretaries, senior officials, and members of Congress in U.S. history. The President signed a Memorandum on November 5, 2009, directing every federal agency to develop plans to implement fully the Executive Order on “Consultation and Coordination with Tribal Governments,” which mandates that all agencies have an accountable process for meaningful and timely input by tribal officials in the development of regulatory policies that have tribal implications. The level of tribal consultation is now at historic levels–marking a new era in the United States’ relationship with tribal governments.

   Last month, President Obama signed a historic reform of the U.S. health care system that includes important provisions to reduce the gaping health care disparities that Native Americans still face. Signing and implementing this landmark law constitutes a major step toward fulfilling our national responsibility to provide high-quality, affordable health care to all citizens, including American Indians and Alaska Natives.  

   The U.S. government has also made improving public safety in tribal communities a high priority. The Department of Justice supports an initiative to hire more Indian country Assistant U.S. Attorneys to prosecute cases of violent crime on Native lands. This initiative will also provide additional federal agents to support law-enforcement efforts in tribal communities. Combating crimes involving violence against women and children on Native lands is a particularly high priority for the U.S. government.

   Last year, in the face of a global economic crisis, President Obama took swift action to spur economic activity and create new jobs. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act specifically allocates more than $3 billion to assist tribal communities. These funds are being used to renovate schools on reservations across the country, to create new jobs in tribal economies, improve housing, support health care facilities, and bolster policing services. The President’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget request also proposes a 5 percent increase in federal funding for Native American programs, to a total of $18.5 billion.

   The United States also supports programs that help indigenous communities around the world. We are especially committed to promoting corporate social responsibility, particularly with extractive industries whose operations can so dramatically affect the living conditions of indigenous peoples. The United States has therefore engaged in a multi-stakeholder initiative to encourage firms to operate safely within a framework that fully respects the rights of surrounding communities. We support the Initiative for Conservation in the Andean Amazon, a regional program designed to strengthen indigenous efforts to protect and conserve the Amazon Rainforest. In Peru, our common efforts focus on the conservation of the Manu National Parks, together with the Yanesha and Ashaninka peoples, by providing training in sustainable resource management and expanding environmental conservation capacity. The United States also participates fully and actively in the Arctic Council, a high-level intergovernmental forum of the eight Arctic states where Arctic indigenous peoples — represented by Permanent Participant organizations — have a co-equal role.

   Consistent with President Obama’s call for a new era of U.S. engagement with the world, the United States applauds the Permanent Forum’s efforts to raise awareness of issues affecting the world’s indigenous peoples and to generate ideas for substantially improving their livelihoods and communities.

   Thus today, I am pleased to announce that the United States has decided to review our position regarding the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We recognize that, for many around the world, this Declaration provides a framework for addressing indigenous issues. During President Obama’s first year in office, tribal leaders encouraged the United States to reexamine its position on the Declaration–an important recommendation that directly complements our commitment to work together with the international community on the many challenges that indigenous peoples face. We will be conducting a formal review of the Declaration and the U.S. position on it. And as we move ahead, we look forward to consulting extensively with our valued and experienced colleagues in the federally recognized Indian tribes and interested nongovernmental organizations.

   While many steps have been taken in the Administration’s first year, we are not satisfied. We seek to continue to work together with our partners in indigenous communities to provide security, prosperity, equality, and opportunity for all. There is no American history without Native American history. There can be no just and decent future for our nation that does not directly tackle the legacy of bitter discrimination and sorrow that the first Americans still live with. And America cannot be fully whole until its first inhabitants enjoy all the blessings of liberty, prosperity, and dignity. Let there be no doubt of our commitment. And we stand ready to be judged by the results. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

American Indians and the United Nations

In 1923 Deskaheh, a Cayuga chief from the Six Nations Reserve in Canada, traveled to Geneva, Switzerland. For more than a year he attempted to present his people’s case to the League of Nations so that the League of Six Nations could receive international recognition as a sovereign state. His mission failed and he returned home without having been able to speak to the League of Nations. Deskaheh’s journey to Switzerland marks the beginning of many attempts by Indian nations in the United States and Canada to bring their concerns to an international forum.  

Following World War II, many of the nations of the world came together to form the United Nations to serve as a forum for international relations. Indian nations as colonial entities were not viewed as sovereign nations as thus were not a part of the United Nations when it was formed.

In 1948 the United Nations classified genocide as a crime against humanity. Genocide is identified as an activity against a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group which includes one or more of the following: (1) killing members of the group, (2) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, (3) inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction, (4) imposing measures to prevent births within the group, and (5) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. Many Indian people realized that the actions of the United States during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries can be viewed as genocide under this definition.

In 1977 the United Nations gave the International Indian Treaty Council status as a Non-Governmental Organization. Several Indian leaders addressed a United Nations conference in Geneva. However, the demands of Indian leaders for international recognition of their sovereign nationhood were unheeded. The conference had no effect on the legal status of Indian tribes in the United States or on their treaties.

The United Nations adopted “Convention On the Rights of the Child” in 1989. This act states that indigenous children “have the right to enjoy their own culture and to practice their own religion and language.” Two nations – the United States and Somalia – did not sign the covenant.  

On Human Rights Day in 1992, several indigenous leaders, including Native American leaders, addressed the United Nations as a part of the opening ceremonies of the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People.

Onondaga chief Oren Lyons reminded the United Nations: “Our lands were declared vacant by papal bulls. You created laws to justify the pillaging of our lands. We were systematically stripped of our resources, religions, and dignity.” He goes on to say: “Yet we survive. I stand before you as a manifestation of the spirit of our people and our will to survive. The wolf, our spiritual brother, stands beside us, and we are alike in the Western mind: hated, admired, and still a mystery to you. And still undefeated.”

Thomas Banyacya, a Hopi elder from Arizona, told the United Nations that “we still have our ancient sacred stone tablets and spiritual religious societies which are the foundations of the Hopi way of life,” and “if we humans do not wake up to the warnings, the great purification will come to destroy this world just as the previous worlds were destroyed.”

In 2006 the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues called upon the Catholic Pope to revoke and renounce the fifteenth century papal bulls which are the foundation for the Discovery Doctrine. According to Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Onondaga Nation: “These bulls provide the foundation for the theft of indigenous lands throughout the world that continues up to this day. These bulls subjugated innocent and unsuspecting Native peoples and subjected them to more than 500 years of slavery, genocide, and a less than human identity.”

Steven Newcomb (Shawnee/Lenape), the Indigenous Law Coordinator at Kumeyaay Community College, writes: “American Indian nations never freely consented to be bound by or to abide by the ideas historically known as the international law of Christendom.” He goes on to say “The principle of Christian discovery and its accompanying principle of Christian dominion are the illegitimate foundation concepts of U.S. federal Indian law and policy.”

A 2005 report to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights found that Indian prisoners in the United States were facing restrictions on their spiritual practices. These restrictions included English-only mandates on ceremonies, such as the sweatlodge, and unrealistic time limits on ceremonies which did not allow them to be concluded in native fashion. According to the report, prison chaplains, who are usually trained as Christian ministers, were required to oversee traditional Native American ceremonies.

In 2005 the United Nations committee on racial discrimination asked the United States to respond to the Western Shoshone appeal for intervention regarding the attack on their spiritual and cultural areas by the United States and mining corporations. The United Nations asked the United States why Western Shoshone sacred land and treaty rights were not being honored. The U.S. failed to respond to a list of 10 questions from the United Nations regarding this matter.

In 2005 a formal human rights complaint against the United States was submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The complaint stemmed from methyl-mercury contamination of subsistence fish caused by gold mines which were abandoned following the mid-nineteenth century gold rush in California and by the dumping of contaminates by the U.S. military in Alaska. These actions, according to the complaint, have impacted the Pit River tribe in California and the Yupik in Alaska.

In California, hundreds of tons of mercury from the abandoned gold mines have resulted in toxic levels of mercury in fish. For California Indians, these fish have both a food value and a spiritual value. In Alaska, the occurrence of cancer among Alaska Natives has been rising since 1990 at a rate 30% higher than for the general population.

Evidence was also included in the complaint that the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Energy, and other federal and state agencies, frequently dismiss links with contaminants as ‘anecdotal’ or blame the life-styles of those who are suffering from health problems.

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2006 discussed a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Article 3 states: “All indigenous peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development.” Three nations-the United States, Canada, and Australia-argued that this statement was in violation of international human rights law.

In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly voted to adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration is a nonbinding agreement that formally established the individual and collective rights of indigenous people. The United States and Canada were among the four nations that vote against the Declaration.  Some observers of indigenous rights feel that this was most significant development in international human rights law in decades.

As Indian nations become more frustrated with their ability to obtain fairness and understanding in the political process-Congress and the state legislatures-and in the legal process-the courts-they are turning more to international organizations, such as the United Nations and the Organization of American States, to help bring pressure to resolve issues of concern to them.  

McCain and the Cross of Coal: GOP Front-Runner Tied to Theft of Navajo Lands

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According to an article over at the American Computer Science Organization:

A public research website: has brought together diverse historical elements of factual proof that Senator John McCain’s was the key “point man” introducing, enacting and enforcing law that removed Dineh-Navajo Families from their reservation on the Black Mesa in Arizona. The McCain revised law relocated them to Church’s Hill, Nevada (a Nuclear Waste Superfund Site, called “the New Lands” in PL 93-531). The Dineh-Navajo, a deeply spiritual and peaceful people, engaged in only peaceful resistance to being moved off lands they’d owned since 1500 A.D. Nonetheless, the Public Press and UN depicted brutalization, rights deprivation and forcible relocation.

The cain2008 website quotes from the UN report directly:

“The Black Mesa region in Arizona, USA is home to the indigenous communities of the Dineh (Navajo) and Hopi peoples. This region also contains major deposits of coal which are being extracted by North America’s largest strip mining operation. The coal mines have had a major impact on families in the region. Local water sources have been poisoned, resulting in the death of livestock. Homes near the mines suffer from blasting damage. The coal dust is pervasive, as well as smoke from frequent fires in the stockpiles. Not coincidentally, the people in the area have an unusually high incidence of kidney and respiratory disease.”

“The Dineh (otherwise known as Navajo) were stripped of all land title and forced to relocate. Their land was turned over to the coal companies without making any provisions to protect the burial or sacred sites that would be destroyed by the mines. People whose lives were based in their deep spiritual and life-giving relationship with the land were relocated into cities, often without compensation, forbidden to return to the land that their families had occupied for generations. People became homeless with significant increases in alcoholism, suicide, family break up, emotional abuse and death.”

— Marsha Monestersky for the UN Commission on Human Rights and Women Enacting Change at the UN

Will we hear more about the plight of the Sovereign Dineh Nation (SDN) in the mainstream media, or from the Democratic candidates? I won’t hold my breath, as Native American issues don’t even seem to register on their radar. That was made more than clear when Democratic President Bill Clinton left American Indian Movement [AIM] leader Leonard Peltier to rot in prison on frame-up murder charges, after already serving 25 years. Oh, and this was despite pleas for executive clemency for Peltier from Coretta Scott King, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Humans Rights, among others.

The Minnesota History Society briefly describes AIM’s history:

AIM’s leaders spoke out against high unemployment, slum housing, and racist treatment, fought for treaty rights and the reclamation of tribal land, and advocated on behalf of urban Indians whose situation bred illness and poverty. They opened the K-12 Heart of the Earth Survival School in 1971, and in 1972, mounted the Trail of Broken Treaties march on Washington, D.C., where they took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), in protest of its policies, and with demands for their reform.

The revolutionary fervor of AIM’s leaders drew the attention of the FBI and the CIA, who then set out to crush the movement.

Leonard Peltier was a victim of the FBI program, Cointelpro. But it’s not just secretive policies of the FBI and CIA. Mainstream politicians have participated in the rape and destruction of Native Americans since this nation’s inception. Politicans like McCain work in tandem with the repressive apparatus of the state to line the pockets of the coal, mining and energy companies at the expense of the lives of poor Native Americans, mindlessly destroying their cultures in the process.

John McCain’s lurid participation in the latest scandal is part of a terrible history, part of a history that must be cleaned up if this country is to survive in any effective sense, and not continue its dizzying descent into moral and economic chaos and violent repression.

Hat tip to Winter Rabbit for alerting me to this story. See her excellent article on it at Daily Kos.

(This article originally posted at Invictus.)

2007 victory: Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted

NEW YORK – On Sept. 13, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, with 143 member states voting for it and 11 abstaining. Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand – four countries with sizable indigenous populations with legitimate claims to large land masses – voted against the adoption.

Not sure why it took so long for this to appear in Indian Country. . .  

While the declaration is not legally binding, the hope and expectation is that it will become a convention with the force of international law.

However, according to an Amnesty International report titled ”Canada and the International Protection of Human Rights: An Erosion of Leadership?” after the declaration was adopted ”Canada has gone on to claim – without any basis in international law – that states that voted against the Declaration should be exempt from the standard that it has set.”

The proposition that governments can opt out by simply voting against a declaration ”dramatically undercuts the integrity of the international human rights system. Every setback has wider impacts as well,” said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty Canada. ”Millions of people around the world living the daily reality of relentless abuses of their human rights need to hear the full force of Canada’s voice on the world stage. Canada can and must do better.”

By contrast, reported on Bolivia’s adoption of the declaration as national law. Bolivia is the first country in the world to do so.

Indian Country Today