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UN PFII Intervention on Man-Camps and Violence in Indigenous Communities


Eighteenth Session - New York City, NY, USA, April 22 to May 3, 2019

Item 4, Implementation of 6 Mandated Areas of the Permanent Forum with Reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Intervention written by: Christine Nobiss, Plains Cree/Saulteaux, George Gordon First Nation

Intervention delivered by: Christine Nobiss

Christine Nobiss presenting her intervention on man-camps and violence at the United Nation Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

THANK YOU allies and INDIGENOUS RELATIONS and to the Ponca, Pawnee and all the tribes that have called this area home.

I want to talk about UNDRIP today, which stands for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In April, I had the honor of attending the yearly United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues where I presented an intervention asking for resolutions from UNDRIP to be incorporated into US law in order to combat the MMIW crisis that is exasperated by man-camps and, in general, predatorial extraction of our Indigenous lands everywhere.

UNDRIP is only considered as a resolution in the US and therefore not binding. And though the US has shown “support” of UNDRIP, that support comes only in empty promises and words with no concrete actions behind it.

This intervention was presented by myself and Melina Laboucan-Massimo as representing both “Canada” and the “US”, two countries cut off by a colonially imposed border.

The relentless colonization of our territories on Turtle Island has a direct correlation to an increased rate of violence against Indigenous women, men, two-spirit people, and children--in particular women, children and two spirits. We have many names for this crisis, one of which is Missing and Murdered Relatives (MMIR). Today, we take this opportunity to call attention to the effect that temporary workforce housing (also known as man-camps) for large construction projects, fossil fuel extraction or mineral mining has on Indigenous communities situated nearby. As James Anaya, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has stated, “Indigenous women have reported that the influx of workers into Indigenous communities as a result of extractive projects also led to increased incidents of sexual harassment and violence, including rape and assault.”

In this regard, we highlight the following two examples:

First, a study in Canada examining the potential impacts associated with the construction of the Mount Milligan Mine in British Columbia on the Nak’azdli (na-caused-lee) and Tl’azt’en (tlaz-den) First Nations territories and the municipality of Fort St. James, found that “the local community experienced a 48% increase in assaults with a weapon, 50% increase in aggravated assaults, 38% increase in sexual assaults, and 37% increase in missing people reports.”

On the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, located in the middle of the Bakken oil fields, there was a 70 percent increase of federal case filings between 2009 and 2011. According to a New Report, released in 2017 by there is a correlation between an increase of violence and the oil boom. The report states that, “Since the Bakken oil boom, Native American communities have reported increased rates of human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking, and missing and murdered indigenous women in their communities.”

In light of this MMIR crisis, we reference Article 22.2 where “States shall take measures, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, to ensure that indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.”

We therefore recommend that:

  • Article 22.2 include the term “two-spirit” as they are also a highly targeted community.

  • That the UN recommend that the United States Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) should add stronger language surrounding judicial sovereignty for Tribal Nations to prosecute non-tribal perpetrators on their own territories, which adheres to Article 34 of UNDRIP, which states that Indigenous Peoples have a right to develop and maintain juridical systems or customs.

  • That the UN support Indigenous advocates in Canada that are demanding the Federal government ensure sexual violence associated with worker camps is addressed in the ongoing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry, which was released on June 3, 2019.

  • The UN continue to push the US and Canadian governments to adhere to articles 19, 26, and 32 of UNDRIP where “Indigenous Peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands they possess” which also includes, in both countries, “free, prior and informed consent” from Tribal Nations to carry out major construction and extraction within a certain distance of those territories.

In closing, we ask the UN and its member states to adhere to all of UNDRIP and end the Indigenous MMIR crisis on Turtle Island.

Ay hai kitatamihin - Thank you

Second publication: Originally published by Earth Island's Institute Seeding Sovereignty Program.


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