Indigenous rights recognized, U.N. honors Taos Pueblo and appraisal upsets Taos farmers

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- 10 Years Ago - 'U.N. affirms Native rights', By Rick Romancito, Dec. 13-19, 2007

Chief Oren Lyons, the Faithkeeper of the Onondaga Nation, was among the many indigenous leaders and people who worked for more than three decades for a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

The United Nations approved the declaration finally in September of 2007 and Lyons came to Taos to speak about the momentous occasion in December. "The United Nations overwhelmingly adopted the declaration in a vote significant in many ways, but perhaps more so because of who voted for it, and for who didn't," wrote Tempo Editor Rick Romancito in a story about Lyon's visit.

The United States, the bastion of democracy, was among four nations that voted against the non-binding agreement, along with Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Another 143 nations voted for the declaration on indigenous rights and 11 abstained. Another three dozen countries did not participate in the vote, according to the story.

Discussions around indigenous rights began in Geneva in 1977, Lyons told Romancito. "Prior to that, there were practically no discussions about indigenous people," he said. "We were very much invisible."

Why did so many countries abstain or, in the case of the United States, vote against the declaration? According to Lyons, it was due to a controversial section of the declaration that says "indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired."

Such as statement would have meant rights to a good chunk of the United States could be claimed by Native Americans. Language in the declaration was later changed to ensure claims wouldn't "impair ... the territorial integrity or political unity" of a nation, but that didn't change the United States delegation's view on the agreement.

The United States representative to the U.N. also said the declaration did not define "indigenous."

In 2010, then President Barack Obama said during a White House Tribal Nations Conference that the United States would sign the declaration on indigenous rights. He approved supporting the declaration in December, 2010.

The United States recognizes more than 560 Indian tribes with some 60-plus tribes recognized at the state level. New Mexico has 19 pueblos and three tribes.

In 2016, the Organization of American States approved its own version of an American Declaration on Indigenous Rights.

Find the U.N. declaration here: un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf.

- 25 Years Ago - 'Pueblo warily accepts honor', By Rick Romancito, Dec. 17, 1992

In another story about the United Nations and indigenous people, the U.N. selected Taos Pueblo as its first World Heritage site of significant places.

Then Taos Pueblo Gov. Tony Reyna said, the pueblo was "not interested in using the award as a promotion."

"The Pueblo sees the award as a tool for future generations to use to safeguard their survival including the preservation of their culture, resources and traditions," Reyna added.

The nomination for the award was made in 1987 to honor Taos Pueblo and the more than 900-year-old, continuously occupied central village.

Reyna, a survivor of the WWII Bataan Death March and respected businessman, gave a cautionary note at the time in a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan. While the tribe was honored by the recognition, he wrote, "we must share with you that our experience as a living community, which is known throughout the world, has made our people cautious with regard to the potential impact of designations conferred upon us by the outside world."

Other sites now protected by the U.N. designation include Chaco Canyon, the Vatican and The Great Wall of China.

- 50 years ago - 'First Tremors Strike On Land Reappraisal', By Scott McCulloch, Dec. 14, 1967

Property owners are never happy with property reappraisals. It usually means their annual property taxes are going to increase.

One set of Taos County property owners were so upset with an appraisal in 1967 that they proposed growing an illicit plant as a way to pay for it all.

Dozens of property owners in Taos County protested after an appraisal was ordered under a new state law for all New Mexico counties.

Members of an ad hoc property owners committee said they couldn't understand the appraisal numbers and planned on protesting at the state capitol in Santa Fe. According to the story, committee members said "the market value figures were way out of line with the productivity value of their property and if these figures were to go into effect, property owners such as they might as well go into the business of raising marijuana to pay for their increased taxes."

Many said they would be happy to sell their land at the new higher appraised value. They said the reappraisal value was based on the lands "potential instead of its actual yield in crop production. They said that might be fine for a rancher sitting on an oil field in Texas, but that it was far from realistic as far as it concerned most of the farming and grazing land in the Taos Valley."

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