San Francisco, CA, October 11, 2009 – The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, Raquel Rolnik, will visit the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota on November 1st during her official visit to the United States where she will be focusing on the human right to housing. She will investigate conditions in public housing as well as homelessness, the foreclosure crisis and the lingering impacts of Hurricane Katrina. South Dakota is one of six states Ms. Rolnik will visit in addition to Washington, D.C., during her official mission to the U.S. from October 23rd – November 8th, 2009. Pine Ridge is her only scheduled visit to an Indian reservation.
The Rappporteur’s visit will provide an opportunity for her to view housing conditions on Pine Ridge, meet with tribal and community members and examine the Treaty and Trust obligations of the U.S. Government to the Lakota and other Indian Nations which includes housing, education, health and other social services. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted in 2007 by the UN General Assembly, affirms the international character of these Treaty Rights and the obligations of countries to honor and uphold them. Housing remains a significant problem on the Pine Ridge reservation and throughout Indian Country. A preliminary report submitted to the Rapporteur by the IITC in August of this year, included information provided by the Oglala Sioux Lakota Housing authority (OSLH), and stated:
“…housing built and indirectly maintained by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (through thoroughly inadequate grants in aid to the Lakota Oglala Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation) is in a deplorable state. Holes in the wall are inadequately repaired by the residents with duct tape and cardboard, mold is a constant menace to health, the units are severely overcrowded, and trash is not collected, among many housing problems. The Oglala Pine Ridge Reservation also raises another problem of many Indian Reservations and their relationship to the United States. The Lakota Nation, among other Indian Nations, is a party to treaties with the United States, signed in the mid and late 1800’s. Among the United States Treaty Obligations is the provision of subsistence and housing, guaranteed to them for their stolen lands and the extermination of their primary means of subsistence, the Buffalo”.
The Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing was created by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2000 to examine and report back on the housing situation in various countries in accordance with international human rights obligations. The report on her first–time visit to the U.S. will be presented to the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2010.
American Indian, Alaska, Hawaiian Native and other Indigenous Peoples living in the U.S. are invited to present information to the Rapporteur during her visit to Pine Ridge and in the cities listed below. The National American Indian Housing Council in Washington, D.C., is also hosting a policy briefing for the Rapporteur on November 7th in which various Tribal and community leaders will also participate.