Who Decides You're Real? ASU Conference on Federal Recognition and Sovereignty

Post date: Dec 20, 2013 5:54:29 PM

There are great changes on the horizon with the federal acknowledgment process at the BIA. The Indian Legal Clinic of Arizona State University is hosting a conference on Federal Recognition that will also encompass issues of inherent sovereignty and tribal governance. The event, held in Tempe, Arizona, on January 16th an 17th, will include the signing of a Declaration on the Exercise of Inherent Sovereignty and Cooperation.Conference information and registration material can be found at the following website:


A draft of the Declaration, prepared by ACET Board memeber Frank Ettawageshik, is below. Tribes wishing to sign the document must provide a resolution affirming the Declaration and designate a signer for the ceremony to take place on January 16th. We strongly encourage tribes to send representatives to this important event.

Declaration on the Exercise of Inherent Sovereignty and Cooperation

Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, January 16th, 2014

Indigenous Nation representatives meeting on this day in the traditional territory of the O’Odham, in order to protect our nations, preserve our cultures and do our part in meeting the challenges facing all of Life and Creation, act by:

Honoring our Creator and our sacred teachings. Since time immemorial Indigenous Nations have sought out and implemented these duties in order to maintain balance in the world around us and in ourselves. We have been taught to walk softly on Mother Earth and to live with the rest of the beings with whom we share this creation;

Building on the wisdom and cultural heritage provided by our ancestors. We work to protect our languages, sacred sites, sacred objects, and cultural practices from theft, misappropriation, and neglect. We hold gatherings and ceremonies in order to teach our children to perpetuate our unique cultural heritage and lifeways;

Expressing the rights of self-determination and self-government exercised and fought for by our ancestors. We have always practiced this exercise of inherent sovereignty as we choose our own governing structures, define our own identity and choose how we worship our Creator;

Desiring to protect our collective futures by fostering safe community environments for our children, families and our elders. Securing human rights and social justice takes years of work and effort. Only in this security can we develop to our full potential for the coming generations;

Accepting the challenges that face our collective nations in the political realm and in the environment as we deal with the effects of the changing climate. We have become place based nations unable to move with these climate changes as we have moved in the past, causing greater threats to maintaining our relationship with the plants and animals of cultural significance.

Knowing that we gain great strength in unifying our collective efforts while at the same time supporting each other’s rights to determine our own actions. We assert the right and responsibility to support each other through intergovernmental agreements and accords, and through individual actions.

Acknowledging the many bureaucratic and systemic barriers that make exercising our inherent sovereignty difficult. Negotiating the acceptance of our inherent sovereignty takes many forms and is a task that is never complete, but rather it takes constant vigilance to achieve and/or maintain. In the struggle to have our status as self-governing nations acknowledged by other nations such as the United States, we benefit by sharing our collective experiences and by working together to improve and inform the process.

Bestowing gratitude and thanks to all those who have worked over the many decades to provide national and international policies, accords, agreements, laws and constitutional provisions that help us to achieve the goals of this immense political and social justice undertaking. Undoing the effects of the attacks on our indigenous nations based on the Doctrine of Discovery is a daunting task. We have tools today that have been incorporated within our Tribal Constitutions, within the US Constitution and laws, and in such documents as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Gathered together today, January 16, 2014, at Arizona at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, we hereby pledge, affirm and proclaim:

To work with each other to exercise our inherent sovereignty as governments, to protect our individual and common human rights, and to seek social justice. The dust and spirits of our ancestors that make up our cultural and national roots are deep in the waters and soil of this land, nurtured by the gifts of Mother Earth. As we stand on this land, we drink together from the waters of knowledge, we breathe the air of freedom and wisdom, and we bask in the light of cooperation and compassion. We assert these for our children’s children and beyond. We carry many lessons from our ancestors, and we share in the collective wisdom and experiences that they have entrusted to us to provide for our coming generations.