Date: Wed, 11 Jun 97 08:40:19 CDT
From: International Indian Treaty Council <>

Commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of participation of indigenous peoples at the United Nations

11 June, 1997

to all Indigenous Peoples, brothers and sisters, Respectful Greetings,

In September of 1977, the Conference on Discrimination against Indigenous Peoples of the Americas took place in Geneva, Switzerland. 165 Indigenous Peoples participated.

It was the first international gathering of Indigenous Peoples before the United Nations, an activity of the Special Committee on Non Governmental Organizations' Sub-Committee on Racism, Racial Discrimination and Apartheid.

There, Indigenous Peoples from the Western Hemisphere gave testimony on the situation of Human Rights of our Peoples and the continuation of colonialism and genocide against us.

This summer will mark the 20th anniversary of this gathering and the formal participation of Indigenous Peoples before the UN in Geneva. This conference gave birth to a great consciousness raising at the international level on the situation of Indigenous Peoples all over the world. Participating Indigenous Peoples made several recommendations to the UN, including the suggestion that there be a more widespread and systematic participation of Indigenous Peoples at the UN level. This recommendation was taken to the Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, which in turn recommended to the UN that the Working Group on Indigenous Populations be formed.

Another World Conference took place in 1981, again in Geneva, and in 1982, the Working Group had its first meeting. Since the formation of the Working Group thousands of Indigenous persons representing hundreds of Indigenous Nations have participated directly in standard setting for the recognition and observance of the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples, such as the UN Draft declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Resolution by the General Assembly declaring 1992 the year of Indigenous Peoples, the subsequent Declaration on the Decade of Indigenous Peoples, important studies on the Preservation of Indigenous Heritage, the study on Treaties, and other issues of great importance to Indigenous Peoples.

The next session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Geneva, beginning 28 July, 1997, will commemorate this historic moment that marks the beginning of the Indigenous Peoples of the world at the United Nations.

For the International Indian Treaty Council, which had been formed 1974, and had participated internationally to achieve this first conference and more ample and open Indigenous participation at the UN, this moment is of great significance and pride.

Indeed, as the International Indian Treaty Council was the first Indigenous organization recognized by the UN as a consultative status Non-governmental organization in 1977, this 20th anniversary is of great significance and pride for us in this respect as well.

We would therefore invite those who are able, to attend the next session of the Working Group where this important beginning will be commemorated. We would especially urge those brothers and sister who attended the first World Conference in 1977 to attend, that they may be recognized in a good way.

We very much regret that our organization is unable to provide any financial assistance for those interested in attending. All will have to make their own arrangements.

If your attendance is possible, we would remind you that it is important to bring traditional dress to this event, to again demonstrate to the UN the diversity of our Peoples, Nations and cultures. If it is possible, please also bring traditional foods for the Indigenous Peoples' reception, keeping in mind that Switzerland has regulations on the importation of meat. It is recommended that frozen meat be sent through diplomatic pouch via the embassies of friendly states.

There will be three major events in the commemoration:

1) Commemorating the march of Indigenous Peoples in 1977, there will be a march of Indigenous Peoples in traditional dress through the main gates of the UN, on Monday, July 28, at 10:00 am, demonstrating, as was done in 1977, that Indigenous Peoples cannot be denied entrance to the UN. Once inside the UN, prior to the beginning of the regular session of the Working Group, representatives of Indigenous Peoples, chosen at the preparatory meeting on Saturday and Sunday at the World Council of Churches building in Geneva, will address the session, and exchange gifts with representatives of the United Nations.

2) Thursday, July 31, Indigenous Peoples will host a reception for representatives of the UN and the public in the evening at the UN Beach, where traditional foods will be served.

3) The Lord Mayor of Geneva will host a reception on Friday, August 31, beginning at 5:00 pm. This event coincides with the Swiss national holiday and will be held in conjunction with their celebration at the Promenade des Bastions across from the Palace Neuve. This event is also of historic tradition, as it marks the reception given in 1923 by the Lord Mayor of Geneva, to Descaheh, the Cayuga Chief who, representing the Iroquois Confederacy, was the first Indigenous representative to the League of Nations. An area for the sale of crafts has also been set aside for this event.

If your presence is possible, and you need more information, please contact:

Bill (Jimbo) Simmons
International Indian Treaty Council
San Francisco, California, US
tel: (415)512-1501
fax: (415)512-1507

Kenneth Deer
The Eastern Door
Mohawk Territory

This invitation is also available on the web at:


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