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United Nations Proclaims 1993 “Year For The World's Indigenous People”: Nobel Prize Officially Awarded To Central American Indian

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      JANUARY 1993      v22 n01 p01  
Rigoberta Menchu Rigoberta Menchu - Nobel Prize Winner

On December 10 of 1992 the world community gathered in New York for the forty-seventh session of the United Nations General Assembly, at the which they witnessed the official ceremonies to declare 1993 the International Year for the World's Indigenous People.

UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali presided over the ceremony and declared, "In the past, some of the world's worst violations of human rights have been perpetrated against indigenous people."

For Canada, two Aboriginal leaders were invited to address the ceremony. They were Mary Simon, of the Inuit Tapirisat, and Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Chief Ovide Mercredi.

Mary Simon highlighted the forced relocation of seventeen Inuit families by the Canadian government in the 1950's as a painful example of Canada's policies. She declared, "The government of Canada owes an apology and compensation to these high Arctic exiles."

Chief Mercredi also addressed the Assembly. He spoke boldly of the significance of the year, and issued a challenge to Canada.

"Although in more recent times there is a greater receptiveness by the Canadian people and their governments to understand our particular vision as indigenous people, we openly challenge the Canadian government to meet the needs of our people" he said as he denounced the national poster competition as meaningless".

"Instead, we call upon the Canadian government to undertake direct actions with respect to the rights of our people. We call upon them to honour and implement the treaty rights of First Nations in Canada. We call upon the Canadian government to ensure that we have the land, the water, and the resources to sustain our economy and to guarantee our development as distinct peoples. We call upon the Canadian government to recognize the inherent right of self-determination of the Indigenous Peoples of Canada."

Meanwhile that same day, Rigoberta Menchu was accepting the Nobel Prize for Peace in Oslo, Sweden. It is one of the most distinguished honors that exist, which recognizes the contributions which recipients have made to promote world peace. Past recipients include Bishop Desmond Tutu, a black South African who continues to fight against Apartheid; Lester B. Pearson, former Prime Minister of Canada; and Mother Theresa, whose work in leper colonies of the Far East Asia.