Listening session to focus on UN declaration and federal policies

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Leonard Gorman, executive director for the Office of Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, explains the purpose of a seminar that focused on funeral home practices and consumer rights in May at Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint.

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission will have a listening session Tuesday to collect input about implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on federal government policies.

Leonard Gorman, executive director for the Office of Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, said commissioners are interested in hearing from tribal members about what they believe is a proper dialogue and decision making process between federal agencies and the Navajo people.

Part of the U.N. declaration requires governments to consult and cooperate with indigenous peoples in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing policies and regulations that may affect them.

With numerous federal government policies in place, it is important for the tribe to use the U.N. declaration in order to present traditional and cultural aspects to federal officials during the decision making process, Gorman said.

It also asserts the tribe's right as an indigenous community to support or oppose policies that harm tradition and culture, he added. 

Tuesday's listening session will center on the tribe's connection to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The U.S. EPA is being examined because the agency has healthy dialogue with the tribe, including allowing the human rights commission office to examine its policy work regarding environmental justice, Gorman said.

He added his office has been in communication with several federal agencies since 2008 and during such dialogue, the office has advocated for agencies to employ the U.N. declaration when developing policies that impact indigenous communities.

Gorman said there was an "eagerness" under the Obama Administration to incorporate the U.N. declaration into federal policies and regulations.

The effort faced challenges because majority of policies and regulations that involve indigenous people were established decades before the U.N. declaration.

There will be a second session on Wednesday that will focus on environmental justice and the implementation of the U.N. declaration.

The second session will take place at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Navajo Division of Transportation in Tsé Bonito.

Both sessions coincide with the 10th anniversary of adoption of the declaration by the U.N. General Assembly.

It is also in response to legislation passed by the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee on June 22 that requested the United States to apply the U.N. declaration and the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into laws, policies and regulations.

Gorman said comments gathered from both sessions will be used for a report the commission plans to release this year.

The session takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Farmington Civic Center.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.


If you go

What: Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission listening session

When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St.

More info: Office of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, 928-871-7436