• Model United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) 2011-2012
    May 9, 2012, Breann Crouse speaks before the U.N. Permanent Forum:

    Presented by: Breann Crouse

    Representing: Salamanca High School Model UNPFII

    From: Ohi:yo Territory of the Seneca Nation of Indians, New York USA

    11th Annual Session of UNPFII
    Press the arrow "play" button to hear the recording: 

    Text of the speech:
    "Nya:wëh Sgë:nö’ gagwe:goh. Thank you Mr. Chairman and to all the people who have worked to allow us to speak today.  We are the Salamanca High School Model Permanent Forum.  We are here today representing the youth of the Ohi:yo territory of the Seneca Nation of Indians in New York State.  We are honored to be here to learn from all the wisdom at this forum.   We spoke last year on the effects of dams in indigenous communities, and that issue is still important to us.  Today, however, we wish to join the indigenous peoples of the world in discussing the effects of and proposing solutions to the Doctrine of Discovery.


    "This year, in preparation for today, our group studied the Doctrine of Discovery and learned about the Papal Bulls that created it.  We were shocked by the concept of “Terra Nulles” . . . meaning empty land.  The land taken from Indigenous Peoples by the Christian Empire was NOT, and is NOT empty. We are still here despite 500 years of pressure to make us disappear.  Today, we would like to stress that  “Terra Nulles” went further.  It includes not just the land, but our minds and our souls.  When we “savages” would not die, the leaders of this country decided to “Kill the Indian and save the man.”  It almost worked but Indigenous peoples are strong. We survived because of the few brave Indians who refused to give up our traditions and beliefs.


    "Our elders that were sent to boarding schools say that anyone who would not surrender their language or their ceremonies was called “bad Indians”.  My grandfather was a “bad Indian”.  As a young boy, he and some of his friends would sneak behind the school buildings and speak in their language and do our ceremonies.  He went on to become a Faithkeeper and leader in our community.  He spent his life teaching others what he knew.  It is because of him and others like him that we are still able to call ourselves Indigenous peoples.  To us, he and others like him including many people in this room are not bad Indians but are “ögwe’oweh” or the real people.  They are the role models that we, the youth, look to in finding our way as we walk about on this earth.  Do the youth, like our elders, have to be “bad Indians” to be good people?  If so, is it any wonder that we don’t excel in schools that have taught us this lesson? 


    "Last year Pope Benedict XVI spoke to immigrants and said he hoped for a future where all people consider themselves part of "one human family." The Seneca and Iroquois people have long understood this way of living.  It is our belief that Our Creator intended for all the people in the world to have love for one another.  We understand that all the people of earth are connected.  They, like us, are watched over by grandmother moon and protected by heavenly beings.  Isn’t this like Christian brotherhood and many other beliefs in the world?  Why does a person and a religion that speaks of brotherhood still hold on to the Doctrine of Discovery? 


    "In Seneca Territory, our leadership has a firm commitment to making our language and culture strong again.   They have set up many programs where elders can more easily pass on their knowledge, and Indigenous history is not forgotten.  We are trying to do our part to change the state of the indigenous world.  All we ask is that the non-indigenous world support our goals and allow us to continue.


    "We ask that the Permanent Forum in their recommendations to ECOSOC go beyond article 28 and 37 of the UNDRIP.  Make it known that the Papal Bulls which make up the Doctrine of Discovery, and the laws that used them as precedent are at the root of the destruction of millions of lives and untold numbers of cultures.  Every wrong that led to every article in UNDRIP can be traced to the laws and the beliefs that come out of the Doctrine of Discovery.  The Doctrine of Discovery should never again be allowed to be used as a precedent for any decision.


    "Finally, we talk to the Pope.  We ask you on behalf of your people to meet with Indigenous Peoples.  To hear what a 500 year old statement means today.  Even as youth we know that if you listened with a good mind you would not let it continue.  Therefore we join the indigenous peoples of the world and those in the Christian community like the World Council of Churches in asking that the pope apologize for the Doctrine of Discovery and denounce it and its use as rationalization for hurting others.  Five hundred years is enough. It is time for this part of history to be over so that the healing may begin.  Sga:d hëdwa:yë’ ögwa’nigoe dëdwadahnö:nyöh ha’deögwe’da:geh da:ne’ hoh di:h neyögwa’nigo’deök.  Let’s make our minds as one as we honor each other the people, so let it be that way in our minds. 


    "Everyone:  NYOH!"

    April 2012, Students Prepare for the United Nations
    Last year, Model UNPFII (United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues) was started at Salamanca High School as a joint effort between the Secretariat of UNPFII, the Seneca Nation of Indians, and Salamanca City Central School District. The group named itself “unipfy” and its members are “unipifians.”  With the goal of learning how to negotiate international politics to advocate for indigenous rights, twenty Salamanca High School Students took up the challenge and surpassed all expectations of their faculty and staff advisors. They travelled to the United Nations in New York City, were trained in human rights and the UN system, and delivered a moving speech in the UNPFII annual session.


    This year, eighteen students prepared to make the trip to the United Nations - May 6 through 10. They began the year with fundraisers. The hard work of the students, the generous support of the Seneca Nation Tribal Council, and a new grant from the Seventh Generation Fund have achieved their financial goals. In addition, this new support from Seventh Generation connects the SHS Model UNPFII with indigenous organizations throughout North, Central and South America.  
    SHS Model UNPFII has taken the next step in developing future leaders. Student officers - President, Breezy Crouse; Vice President, Aaron Miller; Treasurer, Julia Smith; Secretary, Gabby Papa - have taken responsibility for the bi-weekly meetings by setting the agendas, keeping minutes, giving financial reports, running the meetings using parliamentary procedure and setting standards for the group. The unipifians agreed that they all must have passing grades, put in 40 hours of work outside of school, attend weekly study sessions, and attend all trainings to be qualified to go on the trip. They are serious about being representatives of Seneca, Salamanca, and Indigenous Youth.


    In February, representatives from United Nations bodies (the Secretariat of UNPFII and UNICEF) came to the SNI Allegany Community Center to meet the students, train them on Indigenous rights and get their input for an upcoming UNICEF publication that strives to teach indigenous youth around the world about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It was quite an honor since our students were one of five groups of Indigenous Youth (out of approximately 4,000) chosen to meet with these representatives. The other youth groups that the UN representatives will visit are from South America, Asia, and Africa.


    The students performed well, as they always do, and the UN representatives were impressed.  They not only said that the students’ suggestions were useful and definitely will be used, but also want to give unipifians a feature page in this world-wide publication and will list them as contributors. UNICEF offered a tour of their headquarters and the opportunity to meet other indigenous youth when unipifians get to the annual session. The representative from the Secretariat of UNPFII offered his full support of our group in helping them to get registered and speak at this year’s annual session. Finally, all of the representatives would like to promote the Salamanca group in the hopes that it will be replicated around the world.


    In March and April, unipifians attended two full day trainings to teach them about this year’s theme of “Doctrine of Discovery,” and they chose to tie it to current Indigenous issues, relating it to the effect boarding schools have had on Indigenous peoples.  Breann Crouse was chosen by the students to deliver their speech at the United Nations.


    This year’s trip itinerary is both educational and fun. In addition to their statement presentation at the UN, the students will again have a training session with a professor from the University of Hawaii and leader of the Human Rights Institute of Hawaii. They will also meet with Indigenous leaders, other indigenous youth and attend side events at the UN conference. Supporters from last year are again using their NYC contacts to set up more events for the students. Last year this included a VIP tour of the New York Stock Exchange and a personal meeting with a U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Touristy items on the agenda after the UN work include: poncho seats (they get wet) at the Broadway show “Blue Man Group”, a trip to Ellis Island, and, of course, shopping.


    Unipify and all the opportunities offered to the young people who have taken up the challenge could not happen without the support of innumerable people in the Salamanca and Seneca community. Nya:weh for all you have done and will do.
    December 2011 Update:


    The Salamanca student UNPFII group has come together for their second year, and are well underway with the fund raising for another trip to New York City for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May of 2012.


    Approximately 26 students are active in their membership at this time, and the bylaws developed by the students are the guidelines by which they will determine who can go on the trip. Each student must attend all meetings, participate in all fund raisers, attend community events as decided by the group, and participate in training sessions to prepare for the U.N. experience. Also, the group’s faculty advisors, Mr. Musial, Mrs. Wolfe and Mrs. Blacksnake, are working to arrange for UNICEF Representatives to come from Washington, D.C. early in 2012 to train the students on the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


    The theme for the 2012 UNPFII Forum is “Doctrine of Discovery” and soon the students will determine what topic they will address as it relates to that theme. They will then research the topic and develop the script for their chosen student speaker. This speech will be delivered to the United Nations permanent Forum in front of the representatives of all other participating Indigenous Peoples from around the world.


    The group has one third of their funds raised. It takes approximately $1,000 per student to cover their transportation, hotel, food and entertainment expenses for four days. A $5,000 grant the group has applied for is pending, and upcoming fund raising events include a Schwann’s truck sale and serving the Seneca Tribal Council.