Human rights takes historic step at forum

Two representatives from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights will take part in a first ever Native American Educational Conference, hosted by Sierra Nevada College through Tuesday.

Rachel Groux of France, and Elissavet Stamatopoulou of Greece, who both work at the New York office of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, will be presenting a public discussion at The Chateau at 7 p.m. today. Their topic is "Today's Indigenous Peoples of the World, Their Concerns."

The conference opened Sunday with in an exhibition of drumming and dancing.

"I can't tell you what an honor it is to be part of this," said Priscilla La Lone, vice president of communications for the Northern California Division of the United Nations Association. "This is historic. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights is the only world organization that deals at this level with human rights."

Luring such highly powered people, people who get constant requests from the189 nations in the United Nations, to spend their time at the forum speaks highly of the importance of these issues.

"These are not people who are sitting in an office somewhere making decisions," La Lone said. "Last week Rachel was in the mountains of Peru with 60 people, talking about human rights." These leaders meet with the people, she said.

She said top service organizations - groups like Rotary, Kiwanis and American Association of University Women - support the United Nations' goals.

William G. Redel, Ph.D., a longtime associate at Sierra Nevada College, worked with La Lone to organize the forum. Nevada's Native American tribes as well as indigenous peoples the world over are the subject of the forum.

It specifically will address the right to education and the difficulties native peoples have experienced in achieving their educational and vocational goals.

Redel and La Lone in separate investigations found the same alarming statistic: 70 percent of Native American children are dropping out of white American schools at all levels of education. This is what prompted them to get together and organize the forum.

"William Redel has invited tribal leaders from Canada and throughout the United States," La Lone said. "I don't know anyone who is doing as much as he is for indigenous peoples on the college level."

The conferences are presented today and Tuesday at SNC's Lake Campus.

"These are not open to the public," La Lone said. "Native Americans from various tribes will be getting together, along with some members of the college and some members of the United Nations," she explained.


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