PRESS STATEMENT OF MELINDA GOPHER
We began so many years ago, to begin a long journey to heal outselves and restore our sense of nationhood as Anishinabe people. We found ourselves on Hill 57, and it has taken this long to regain a sense of self-understanding. My late father, Robert Gopher, had asserted so many times in leading our organization; that all tribal nations had the right to exist, this is not a right that is pre-determined by Europeans to fit a colonial model of conquest and dominion, but a pre-ordained Creator-given right.
We are on the road to rebuilding, we have had many victories along the way. To build on our own empowerment efforts, and on this 25th anniversary of the national holiday to commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, we found the much discussed Aboriginal Human Rights Network, on this day, January 17, 2011.
This network is self-directed, under the non-profit corporation of Loud Thunder to foster a renewed commitment to the continued struggles of aboriginal people of the Western Hemisphere. Our activism over the past twenty years has given us the experience that is needed to address the many criticual issues that affect aboriginal people today.
The mission of the AHRN is to address the growing invisibility of the human suffering of native people. We seek the means to effectively address policy failure at every level. We are witness to token resolutions of long standing problems, only to find these falling far short of the desired liberty, freedom and right to exist of native communities. The Cobell Settlement in the U.S. is an example of policy shortcoming on its face, purports to address long standing grievances of native landholders, our view is the settlement is unconscionably low. This is a legal standard of failure. This is problematic in terms of future claims of Indian nations and sets the low bar in terms of damages affirmed. This is movement in the wrong direction.
There will be a portion of the AHRN that will address the need to now, "bust open the settlement" and this is something that requires new leadership, direction, insight and commitment. For that reason, the AHRN will closely monitor the proceedings in which the Cobell settlement funds are to be distributed, as well as the outcomes of the litigation settlement terms. The AHRN calls for a new day of affirming tribal existence.
To that end, the AHRN is addressing the rights and needs of the unenrolled tribal descendants of all nations to experience the inalienable right to tribal citizenship. And for those non-recognized tribes, over 226 in the United States, the AHRN will foster awareness of the tribal groups, bands, corporations that seek their rightful exercise of their God-given sovereignty. We support and advocate for a broad recognition bill in the U.S. Congress to restore federal obligations to honor our sovereignty.
Tribal people are now on the front line of global energy policies, this presents grave challenges now and in the future. To this effort, the AHRN adds our voice to the growing outcry of the tar sands development that threatens the existence of our northern relations. We understand we are all one human family.
We will stand with national, and international Latino leadership to force the end to inhumane immigration laws that have favored people of Euro-descent since this nation's founding. We will seek broad-based coalition building to honor the human dignity of all aboriginal people of the Western Hemisphere. We must resist governmentally entrenched policies that create second and third class citizenship as the means to a race based end. The AHRN will seek to protect the U.S. Constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship that has withstood the test of time.*