Calvert Urges U.S. to Support UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Date of publication: 
22 July 2010

On April 20, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice announced that the United States would conduct a formal review of its position in opposition to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The United States was only one of four countries to have voted against UNDRIP when it was approved in September 2007, with 144 countries voting in favor and 11 abstaining. This summer, the US Department of State has been seeking comments from Indigenous Peoples, NGOs and others that would like to provide input into the re-evaluation process. The remaining three countries – Canada, Australia and New Zealand – are also now reviewing their positions on UNDRIP as well.
Calvert believes Indigenous Peoples in the U.S. and elsewhere around the globe deserve the affirmation and recognition of the broad array of rights set forth in the Declaration, including those related to self-determination, culture, land and natural resources, means of subsistence, treaty rights, non-discrimination, health and social services, protection of sacred sites, education and language. All these are rights which Indigenous Peoples themselves have identified as necessary to their survival, well-being and dignity—rights which the international community should fully embrace. UNDRIP was a compilation of over 30 years of work by Indigenous nations, many living within U.S borders, and recognizes the collective and individual rights of 370 million people worldwide.
On July 14, Calvert submitted comments to the State Department as well as to the White House, in both cases, urging the U.S. to re-evaluate its position and to publicly endorse UNDRIP as well as disclose plans for full implementation. Calvert has long been a supporter of Indigenous Peoples’ rights and in 1999 was the first SRI to develop explicit criteria to address the rights and cultural integrity of American Indians and Indigenous Peoples around the world. Calvert continually engages with companies to develop appropriate policies and to demonstrate best practices insofar as their products, services and operations affect the lives, culture and traditions of Indigenous Peoples. U.S. support for UNDRIP would encourage more companies to be sensitive to Indigenous Peoples’ rights and to publicly disclose policies and programs relevant to them.
Calvert will continue to engage with companies on Indigenous Peoples’ rights and to support important policy initiatives such as support for UNDRIP. Go to to see Calvert’s comments to the State Department.

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Calvert Asset Management Company, Inc., 4550 Montgomery Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814.


Modoc Nation: Statement on UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State, United States of America
In care of:
S/SR Global Intergovernmental Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW., Suite 1317
Washington, DC 20520.

15 July 2010

Re: Consultations with federally recognized tribes on the United States Government’s reexamination of its position on the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The Modoc Nation (formerly known as the Modoc Tribe) is a federally recognized tribe listed in the Federal Register under the label “Klamath Tribes.” This misnomer that groups three separate sovereign federally recognized indigenous tribes under a single name, is a serious problem for us that goes to the heart of our sovereignty and our identity and survival as a unique people and culture. The “Klamath Tribes” is not a single tribe; rather it is a name used to refer to the confederation of three separate tribes: the Klamath Tribe, the Modoc Tribe, and the Yahooskin Band of Snake Indians. Our sovereignty and federal recognition stems from the Lakes Treaty of 1864, and although federal recognition was terminated in 1954, it was restored to us in the Klamath Tribe Restoration Act of 1986. No act of Congress, Executive Order, or any constitution that has been used by any of the three tribes has dissolved the sovereignty of any of them or merged them into a single tribe.

Each of the three tribes maintained their traditional governing structures and practices until the early 1900s, when, under pressure from the BIA, a constitution was drafted and adopted. No one knows to what extent this initial constitution was actually discussed and debated among the members of the three separate tribes or the degree of political sophistication possessed by those of our ancestors who voted. There can be little doubt, however, that discussion was limited and political sophistication was at a very low level. There can be absolutely no doubt whatever that none of our Modoc ancestors who may have voted to adopt that initial constitution intended to give up our sovereignty as an indigenous nation or our identity as a unique and different people, separate from the other two tribes.

At some point in time, people began to refer to the three tribes in the singular – the “Klamath Tribe,” as if somehow the Modoc Tribe and the Yahooskin Band of Snake Indians no longer existed as separate entities. But this misconception was held by the dominant white culture, not by the Modoc people, who have always maintained our sense of separate identity, culture and history.

After much heated debate between several factions within the Klamath Tribal government, the members of the three tribes voted to exclude themselves from the provisions of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Ironically, however, and tragically for the Modoc Tribe and the Yahooskin Band of Snake Indians, a new constitution was written and adopted, which was based on the IRA model that the BIA was promoting at the time. Therefore, there was but a single branch of government with no checks and balances. The most recent version of the constitution of the so-called “Klamath Tribes” preserves the major flaw of having a General Council that uses a one-person-one-vote method of electing a “Tribal Council,” which combines the legislative and executive powers and functions into a single body. Although the latest constitution states that there are three tribes, the statement is mere “lip service, because the constitution neither addresses nor protects the political or other rights of the Modoc Nation (formerly Tribe) or, for that matter, those of the Yahooskin Band of Snake Indians. Because the ethnic Klamaths outnumber the ethnic Modocs and Yahooskins combined by a ratio of at least ten to one, the latter two tribes and their members have been effectively disenfranchised. Yes, they get to vote in General Council, but even if they voted as a monolithic block, they would not be able to win on any issue opposed by the Klamaths. Neither the Modoc people nor the Yahooskin people have ever considered this government to be politically or morally legitimate.

As studies conducted by the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy (NNI) at the University of Arizona have shown, “IRA style” constitutions practically ensure that those native tribes and nations that are saddled with them lag far behind in terms of economic development and the general well-being of their people. Indeed, this has been the case with respect to the undemocratic Klamath dominated government of the “Klamath Tribes.” The constitution has engendered in the people a mindset, in which government is viewed as the power to control resources for the benefit of whomever is in charge, not the means for creating opportunities for members of the three tribes as a whole. For more than 50 years, the peoples of the three tribes have suffered under a culture of corruption that guarantees perpetual factional in-fighting, nepotism, cronyism, patrimony, discrimination, favoritism and other forms of political corruption. But the peoples who have suffered most are the two minority tribes, the Modocs and the Yahooskins. For decades the majority Klamath Tribe has discriminated against the Modocs and Yahooskins on the basis of tribal affiliation and skin color when it comes to enrollment, housing, jobs and other tribal benefits. Nor is the Modoc Tribe allowed to represent its own interests in hearings or negotiations with the federal, state, and local governments, or other third parties. Instead, this illegitimate, undemocratic, Klamath dominated government has consistently ignored and refused to act on the natural and cultural resource concerns of the Modocs and Yahooskins. Virtually all land acquisitions and economic development have occurred on the ancestral lands of the majority Klamath Tribe.

Perhaps the worst evil of the many that have come from this illegitimate government in which the Klamath Tribe holds the Modoc Tribe and the Yahooskin Band of Snake Indians in a state of permanent political subjugation concerns the racist issue of blood quantum. The Klamath constitution provides that only a person with one quarter Klamath, Modoc or Yahooskin blood quantum is eligible for enrollment. The traditional culture of the Modoc people does not promote arranged marriages, so our sons and daughters marry for love or other reasons. As parents, we cannot insist that they marry for the purpose of preserving an artificially set blood quantum. So with each passing generation, the quantum of Modoc, or Klamath, or Yahooskin blood decreases. The result that we are seeing today is that our children and grandchildren are being disqualified from citizenship in their own tribe. They are be deprived not only of various federal Indian benefits, such as educational grants and other services, but even more importantly, they are being deprived of their very identity and culture. It is as if they are being erased. They are neither white; nor are they allowed to be Modoc. The ultimate result of enforcing a blood quantum requirement for tribal citizenship is the extinction of the tribe itself. Although the Klamaths eventually will wake up to this fact, the impact is disproportionally felt by smaller tribes, such as the Modoc Tribe and the Yahooskin Band of Snake Indians. It is very clear to us that if we fail to take decisive action, our tribe and our people, will become extinct. The Modoc Tribe will cease to exist, and the Modoc people will become nothing more than an ethnic group that has been assimilated into the dominant white culture, or, alternatively, into the Klamath Tribe. This is unacceptable to the Modoc Tribe and people.

The Modoc Tribe and People will never accept that they are destined to live under a corrupt and despotic government that promotes the interests of the Klamath Tribe over the interests of the Modoc Tribe. The Modoc Tribe and People will never accept that because they are outnumbered ten to one by the Klamath Tribe, they are powerless to change the Klamath government, which dictates to and discriminates against them. The Modoc Tribe and People will never accept that they are destined to the extinction of their separate identity, culture and tribal status, either by gradual assimilation or through the operation of political neglect and indifference by the federal government, which entered into a trust relationship with us when it signed the Lakes Treaty of 1864, thereby recognizing us as a sovereign indigenous nation.

After the United Nations General Assembly enacted the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in September of 2007, we learned that virtually the entire world community of nations agrees with us in what rights we have as an indigenous people. Among these are the right to consider ourselves different from other peoples and to preserve and protect our unique identity and culture. We have the right to self-government. The list goes on. Unfortunately, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were the only four nations in the entire world to vote against UNDRIP. This saddened us as a people because it signaled an intent to continue the genocidal, paternalistic practices that our government has used to steal our lands and resources, destroy our traditional religions and cultures, and in general marginalize us even as United States citizens. The governments “no” vote embarrassed us as U.S. citizens because it put us in the position of seeing our nation become a pariah among nations, stubbornly refusing to do what is morally right, clinging tenaciously to a status quo that has been repudiated as a violation of human rights as they apply to indigenous peoples. It is therefore, with great optimism that we see that the Obama administration has decided to review its position with respect to UNDRIP.

For our part, on November 20, 2008, The Modoc Tribe drafted the Declaration of the Rights of the Free and Sovereign People of the Modoc Indian Tribe (Mowatocknie Maklaksûm), the first declaration of rights issued by any native tribe or nation in the Americas to be based on the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples enacted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2007 (copy attached). We began circulating the Declaration and signature sheets for its ratification among the Modoc People. Public meetings were held on October 9, 2009 and January 29, 2010. A newsletter was started and the movement gained momentum. As of this date more than 100 signatures of adult Modocs have been gathered ratifying the Modoc Declaration. The main thrust of this document is that the Modoc Tribe and people have the right to preserve their unique identity and culture through political and economic self-determination. A web site has been placed on the Internet (

After almost a year of research and two months of writing that included five drafts that drew more than 70 comments, we presented our people with a constitution for their consideration and scheduled a gathering and election for June 19, 2010. We placed in two local weekly classified-ads papers one-quarter page ads that appeared every week during the month prior to the election. On the 19th of June the Modoc People gathered at the Lava Beds National Monument in northern California and, exercising our sovereignty as a federally recognized Indian tribe, changed our government by unanimously adopting a new constitution and electing a new government. We then issued a Unanimous Declaration of the Modoc Nation, a four-page document in which we set forth our reasons for repudiating all allegiance and dissolving all political ties to our former illegitimate government – the de facto confederation of three tribes known as the “Klamath Tribes,” described above. We then entered into joint declarations with two other federally recognized tribes, the Pit River Tribe and the Yahooskin Band of Snake Indians, in which each of those native governments formally recognized our new government as “the sole legitimate government” of the Modoc people. Copies of the new constitution, a certification of election results, declaration of independence, and joint declarations are attached hereto.

It is now our task to convince the federal government, specifically the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), to acknowledge the legitimacy and authority of our new government, as opposed to continuing to recognize the corrupt and despotic government known as the “Klamath Tribes.” It is an undeniable fact that the Modoc Tribe (now named “Modoc Nation”), except for the 32- year period between termination and restoration, has been and still is a “federally recognized tribe of Indians,” and as such, the federal government recognizes its sovereignty, which inherently includes the right to change its form of government and to enter into and dissolve its political relationships with other indigenous nations and tribes. Therefore, gaining the BIA’s acknowledgment of our change in government ought not to be a problem. The moral and right thing to do is for the BIA to acknowledge the Modoc people’s new government and to begin the process of transferring to our government the administration and operation of programs and benefits intended for our people, instead of continuing to do so through the government of another tribe. But the history of the BIA’s interference in tribal government is both long and well-established, and it is in the bureaucratic interest of the BIA to resist the change in our government. After all, it’s less paperwork to deal with one government instead of two. So there is a real question as to whether the BIA will do the moral and right thing, or whether the Modoc Nation (formerly “Modoc Tribe”) will have to engage in a long and expensive battle involving litigation and/or congressional action.

Under UNDRIP, our rights to maintain our separate identity as a people, to preserve our culture, to be self-governing, and to determine for ourselves how we should approach our future are fundamental rights. Without UNDRIP, the realization of all of these rights is questionable.

For the reasons stated herein above, we, the Modoc people, organized as the Modoc Nation (formerly Modoc Tribe), hereby respectfully request that the United States government reverse its position on UNDRIP and adopt its provisions without limitation or modification.

Respectfully submitted,

Two Eagles (Perry H. Chesnut)
Secretary of State, Modoc Nation
P.O. Box 2232
Issaquah, WA 98027-0100
425-770-7345 pchesnut [at] indigenous-rights [dot] org