Native Americans say US violated human rights

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Native Americans say US violated human rights
Jake Edwards, of the Onondaga Council of Chiefs, stands outside the federal courthouse in Albany, N.Y., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2007, after arguments were heard in the Onondaga Indian Nation's land claim case against New York state. The central New York tribe filed claim in 2005 to a swath of land up to 40 miles wide running north to south from the St. Lawrence River to the Pennsylvania state line. They argue that New York state illegally took the land from them centuries ago. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
FILE - This Oct. 11, 2007 file photo shows Oren Lyons of the Onondaga Council of Chiefs taking photos outside the federal courthouse in Albany, N.Y., after arguments were heard in the Onondaga Indian Nation's land claim case against New York state. A Native American nation is asking the international community to charge the United States with human rights violations in hopes of getting help with a land claim. The Onondaga Indian Nation says it plans to file a petition at the Organization of American States on Tuesday, seeking human rights violations against the United States government. They want the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to declare that the U.S. government’s decision not to hear their lawsuit asking for the return of 2.5 million acres in upstate New York to be violations of international human rights agreements. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)
In this photo taken July 19, 2010, Audrey Shenendoah, poses at her home in Onondaga Nation, N.Y. "We're not Americans, we're Haudenosaunee," said Shenendoah, which translates into "People of the Longhouse". Shenendoah is a clan mother of the Onondaga Nation. Living uneasily among Americans, many Iroquois still believe they're fighting for their own identity. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)
Canada (New France). 17th century. Congress of peace between some Indian nations of Canada, chaired by a French governor and an Iroquois, representative on a confederation of six American Indian tribes inhabiting northern New York and Canada. During the conference, the Indians returns a French prisoner. Engraving, 1807. (Photo by: Prisma/UIG via Getty Images)
Illustration of a tribal council, held around a fire, by Onondaga Indians from Ontario, late eighteenth century. (Photo by Interim Archives/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Native American group is asking the international community to charge the United States with human rights violations in hopes of getting help with a land claim.

The Onondaga Indian Nation says it plans to file a petition at the Organization of American States on Tuesday, seeking human rights violations against the United States government. It wants the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to declare that the U.S. government's decision not to hear its lawsuit asking for the return of 2.5 million acres in upstate New York to be violations of international human rights agreements.

The nation has argued that about 4,000 square miles in 11 upstate New York counties stretching from Pennsylvania to Canada was illegally taken through a series of bogus treaties. More than 875,000 people live in the area, which includes Syracuse and other cities.

U.S. courts have refused to hear the lawsuit asking for the return of their land, with the Supreme Court turning away a final petition in October.

"The problem is that we can't get the governor to sit down with us and the United States to live up to its treaty rights," said the Onondaga Nation's attorney, Joe Heath.

While in Washington, the group plans to display a belt that George Washington had commissioned to commemorate one of the treaties that was supposed to guarantee the Onondaga their land and "the free use and enjoyment thereof."

The group says it is not seeking monetary damages, eviction of residents or rental payments. Instead, it wants a declaration that the land continues to belong to the Onondagas and that federal treaties were violated when it was taken away. Onondaga leaders have said they would use their claim to force the cleanup of hazardous, polluted sites like Onondaga Lake.

The petition against the United States was brought by the Onondaga Nation and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, which is made up of the Onondaga, Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga and Seneca Nations.

It could be years before the commission decides whether to hear the nation's complaint, Heath said. Even then, there is nothing that could force the government to follow international recommendations, Heath said. The hope is that public pressure would bring state and federal officials to the table.

"Yes, they can just ignore it but there's only so long we think can they do that," said Heath.

Even if nothing happens, they will have made their stand, they said.

"We're here, we're speaking out and they know where we stand," Onondaga Clan Mother Freida Jacques said. "Maybe you won't write it in history, but we'll know we made this effort and we're not letting the people down."

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