FARMINGTON — The United States consistently has failed to protect the Navajo Nation and its people, the Navajo Human Rights Commission stated in its official response to the United States human rights record.

The response will be read next month in Geneva, Switzerland, in front of 192 dignitaries of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The reading comes as part of the U.N. Universal Periodic Review of its members on human rights obligations.

The United States is up for review this year. The country's report to the U.N. was made public Aug. 23.

The Navajo Human Rights Commission's response commends the U.S. State Department for recognizing the "virtue" of indigenous people and sovereign government, but it also states "The United States fails to meet its human rights obligations to indigenous peoples. These transgressions need to be accounted for."

The commission's response points out failures in three main categories: the failure to protect sacred or religious sites, the forced relocation of Navajo mandated by federal legislation, and rights of the Navajo to self-determination.

"It is unacceptable that a nation that claims to be an advocate for protecting human rights objects to the recognition of indigenous human rights as it pertains to religious and cultural beliefs," the response states.

"The United States restricted property rights and interest in the lands of the Diné and Hopi peoples without their free, prior and informed consent and thereby imposing a foreign system of property valuation. (Relocates and their descendants) are now denied the opportunity to learn, participate and pass on the Diné traditional Life Way," it states.

The response also includes questions the Navajo Human Rights Commission is requesting the U.N. Human Rights Council to ask of the United States.

Those questions include:

  • Why are the rights of indigenous peoples to "freely profess a religious faith and to manifest and practice it both in public and in private" not protected by United States federal legislations?

  • Why doesn't the United States engage in true nation-to-nation dialogue with the Diné people to develop an effective mechanism consistent with the international standard of "free, prior and informed consent" to address Indian land claims and forced relocation?

  • Why do the United States' laws and policies oppress indigenous nations' inherent rights to self-determination and sovereignty of Diné peoples over their lands, resources, water and minerals?

  • When will the United States endorse the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

    "As the original inhabitants of the United States, we have a long history of human right abuse and we can make our comment on the UPR of the U.S. from a standpoint of firsthand experience," Navajo Human Rights Commission Chairman Duane "Chili" Yazzie said.

    Yazzie is expected to attend the Geneva conference next month.

    Alysa Landry: alandry@daily-times.com