Riding A Dead Horse: Reports on the UN


The United Nations - Geneva

Wise men say when you realise you are riding a dead horse the best thing to do is to dismount the creature.

What does the UN do when it realises it is riding a dead horse?

Forms a Committee to address the issue of the dead horse, drafts a Declaration about the rights of the dead horse, has a special sitting on the plan of action for getting off the dead horse…

This joke used to cycle around the UN via email during my years working as a freelance reporter covering various meetings on Human Rights, and while the UN seems all-important when one is participating, when seen from a distance it resembles more and more the riding of a dead horse.

Greetings to you and many thanks for visiting the archive of my reports written about the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights, the Working Group on the Draft Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the Working Group on Indigenous Populations. For three years I functioned as a freelance reporter covering these meetings in an informal and informational capacity, although I would have loved to have made a job of it. The reports within these pages were disseminated widely to human rights activists and indigenous peoples throughout the world.

This work was inspired by the late Tony Black Feather, the former Spokesperson of the Teton Sioux Nation Treaty Council and one of my most treasured friends and mentors. Grampa Tony always told me to “Let the Spirit Lead” and I never thought the Spirit would lead me away from my work at the UN, but that was exactly what happened. Probably due to the volatility of my reports and my no holds barred style of journalism there was no organisation willing to give me ongoing funding and when my own savings dried up I was forced to move on and find a paying job. My parents were incredibly supportive throughout the years I was at the UN and their help is the main reason this archive of reports exists at all. As you will see, the accounts are almost ethnographic in detail and observation, recounting not only the official story but the personal stories as well.

Working Group on Indigenous Populations 2003
Working Group on Indigenous Populations 2003

Since these reports were written there have been many changes at the UN. The Commission on Human Rights has been dissolved and transformed into the controversial Human Rights Council. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the Human Rights Council and is since tabled at the UN General Assembly for adoption. But as usual, it is not so simple. The original Sub-Commission version of the Declaration which used to have the unanimous support of indigenous delegates until 1997 when positions began to fragment and delegates began to lose faith that the Declaration would pass at all, has been substituted for a very problematic Chairman’s Text that supposedly is a melding of the indigenous and governmental desires. A compromise text, if you will. There are some indigenous peoples who are in favour of this new text (even though during m years at the UN the Chairman’s Text was everyone’s worst nightmare) because they claim any Declaration is better than none. Charmaine White Face, the new Spokesperson of the Black Hills Teton Sioux Nation Treaty Council, is of the belief that no Declaration is better than a bad Declaration. The last I heard, African nations were blocking the adoption of the Declaration at the UN General Assembly vote and as my alliances lie with the Lakota Elders, I am also praying that the Declaration will be voted down.

Although I have not been actively participating in the struggle of indigenous peoples at the UN any longer, my prayers remain with them for the justice they have been waiting for so long. I wish them all the best and my time with them will never be forgotten.

I hope you find this archive interesting and informative.

Mitaku Oyasin, We are All Related,


P.S. In case you missed it above, here’s the link.


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