TITLE: Ensuring the Protection of Native Prisoners’ Inherent Rights to Practice their Traditional Religions
WHEREAS, we, the members of the National Congress of American Indians of the United States, invoking the divine blessing of the Creator upon our efforts and purposes, in order to preserve for ourselves and our descendants the inherent sovereign rights of our Indian nations, rights secured under Indian treaties and agreements with the United States, and all other rights and benefits to which we are entitled under the laws and Constitution of the United States, to enlighten the public toward a better understanding of the Indian people, to preserve Indian cultural values, and otherwise promote the health, safety and welfare of the Indian people, do hereby establish and submit the following resolution; and
WHEREAS, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was established in 1944 and is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments; and
WHEREAS, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians in the United States (collectively “Native Americans” or “Indian people”) are under the supervision of the adult correctional systems at a rate higher than their presence in the U.S. population, which includes probation, parole, or in custody of tribal, state, or federal incarceration facilities; and
WHEREAS, incarcerated Native Americans depend upon their freedom to engage in traditional indigenous religious practices for their rehabilitation, survival, and the ability to maintain their identity, which for many Indian people is a proper and necessary road to rehabilitation; and
WHEREAS, Native governments, communities, and societies generally share the penological goals of repressing criminal activity within their jurisdictions and self-determination in facilitating spiritual rehabilitation of their citizens, and those traditional religious practices that assist Indian peoples’ rehabilitation are unique to each Native group and many Native governments have developed laws and policies that affirm and support traditional Native religious rights and expressions; and
WHEREAS, numerous U.S. domestic laws and international laws developed at the United Nations have affirmed the traditional religious rights of incarcerated Native peoples’ and have affirmed Native peoples’ overall freedom to believe, express, and exercise their traditional religious and cultural practices; and
WHEREAS, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides that States such as the United States “shall provide redress through effective mechanisms, which may include restitution, developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples, with respect to their cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs”.
WHEREAS, the inherent rights of incarcerated Indian peoples’ freedom to believe, express, and exercise traditional indigenous religion, are too frequently violated by federal, state, and local government actors in the United States, and this has been reference in NCAI Resolution #SD-02-091; and
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that NCAI denounces and opposes any federal, state or local government restrictions placed upon incarcerated Native Peoples’ inherent rights to believe, express, and exercise their traditional religions and practices, and Resolution #REN-12-005 replaces Resolution #SD-02-091; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI calls upon the United States, all fifty American states and the District of Columbia – including federal and state executive, agency, legislative, corrections, and judicial officials and employees – to: (a) take all reasonable steps to commend, support, and facilitate incarcerated American Indigenous Peoples’ inherent rights to believe, express, and exercise traditional indigenous religion, (b) Denounce or cease any unduly inappropriate or illegal federal, state, or local government restriction upon incarcerated American Indigenous Peoples’ inherent rights to believe, express, and exercise traditional indigenous religion, and (c) Explore how federal, state, and American indigenous governments can jointly develop and advance shared penological goals in regard to incarcerated American Indigenous Peoples; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI calls upon the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples S. James Anaya, for an investigation into the pervasive pattern in the United States of increasing state and local restrictions on the religious freedoms of incarcerated Native peoples in the United States; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Resolution shall be immediately transmitted to the United States Attorney General and the Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, the United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedoms, relevant Congressional Committees, and the Presidents of the American Correctional Association and American Association of State Correctional Administrators; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be the policy of NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.