American Indian, Civil Liberties Advocates Formally Call Upon UN Human Rights Committee For Inquiry Into United States’ Violation of Indigenous Prisoners’ Religious Freedoms

Sep 3rd, 2013

Today, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), Native American Rights Fund (NARF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), as well as elected leaders and grassroots advocates from American Indian Country, decried the United States’ violations of indigenous prisoners’ religious freedoms, to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

The coalition’s concerns took the form of a 15-page report (HERE), titled, “Joint Submission to Human Rights Committee Concerning Indigenous Prisoners’ Religious Freedoms in the United States of America,” which was transmitted to Ms. Kate Fox Principi, Secretary of the Human Rights Committee in Geneva, Switzerland this afternoon, with a view towards the Committee’s 109th Session commencing on October 14, 2013.

The indigenous prisoners’ religious rights coalition is altogether comprised of:


· Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians

· Round Valley Indian Tribes

· National Native American Bar Association

· Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program

· Native American Rights Fund

· Center for Indian Law and Policy at the Seattle University School of Law

· ACLU of Washington

· ACLU of Southern California

· Huy

The report was authored and principally submitted by Huy, a tribally controlled non-governmental organization formed in Washington State to provide economic, educational, rehabilitative, and religious support for American indigenous prisoners in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the United States. In Coast Salish language, Huy (pronounced “hoyt”) means: “See you again/we never say goodbye.”

“On any given day, state and county corrections agencies somewhere in America violate the fundamental rights of indigenous prisoners to worship in traditional tribal ways,” said Chairman of the Huy Board Advisors, Gabriel Galanda, a tribal lawyer with Galanda Broadman, PLLC in Seattle. “We hope that the UN will help us get the United States’ attention and in turn, the U.S. will help bring its state and local siblings into compliance with federal law and international human rights norms.”

This report concerns the United States’ violations of indigenous prisoners’ religious freedoms and the United States’ failure to fully implement the ICCPR on state and local levels, in particular response to paragraphs 1(b), 4, 16, and 27 of the Human Rights Committee’s list of issues concerning the United States, for the 109th Session.

The American indigenous movement that chiefly gave rise to the UN report began in Washington State, in 2010, when several tribal governments decried the state’s deprivation of various religious freedoms enjoyed by imprisoned tribal members.

Today, as the report details: “Events in Washington demonstrate both the larger pattern of rising state restrictions on indigenous prisoners’ rights as well as the importance of consultation with indigenous peoples concerning administrative measures that affect them. . . . Indeed, Washington now stands as a potential model for meaningful state–indigenous peoples consultation and collaboration with respect to state corrections policy regarding Native American prisoners’ religious property and ceremony . . .”