Episcopal Church and the United Nations

#PFII23: Including Indigenous youth in future work of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

April 25, 2024
Episcopal UN

By Ronald Braman (Eastern Shoshone, Episcopal Diocese of Idaho), Melissa Chapman Skinner (Standing Rock, Episcopal Diocese of South Dakota) and Charleigh Bass (Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska)

The following statement on behalf of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 23rd session (April 15th – 26th, 2024) was delivered by Ronald Braman (Eastern Shoshone, Episcopal Diocese of Idaho) on April 23rd at UN Headquarters in New York. The statement was delivered during the session onAgenda item 6 – Future work of the Permanent Forum, including issues considered by the Economic and Social Council, the outcome document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and emerging issues.

Tsaan seikken Bechuwa. NeaN nanihan Ron Braman. Ne Sosori, Wind River Wyoming naite. Good Morning. My name is Ron Braman. I am enrolled Eastern Shoshone, from Wind River Indian Reservation, Fort Washakie, Wyoming in the United States. I reside on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in Idaho.

Distinguished Chairs, and with many thanks to the Munsee Lenape, Wappinger, and Haudenosaunee peoples who welcome us to these lands,

Together with my fellow delegates, Melissa Chapman Skinner, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe & young adult delegate, Charleigh Bass, Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, we offer encouragement for inclusion of Indigenous youth in future work of the Permanent Forum, and we commend statements given by member states in this Forum calling for this “movement” of creating space for the voice of Indigenous youth.

We are Indigenous members of the Domestic & Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, an ECOSOC accredited NGO and member province of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the first Christian church to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery in 2009.

As Indigenous people, our experience is that it is very common for family structures to be tightly knit, without colonial family constructs such as great aunts, great nephews, and step or half siblings. In the Episcopal Church, it is not uncommon for Indigenous families to travel with children of all ages to church events, sometimes unbeknownst to program organizers.

While we are certainly not calling for an open forum to the extent of very young children, we hope to highlight the focus on the importance of our young people, and the need for young adults in attendance.

This is a time of reclaiming our Indigeneity. We are reconciling the legacy of Residential & Boarding Schools and the systemic erasure of our culture & traditions through policy, education & assimilation practices. We need the invaluable voices our young people have to offer to this body.

We call upon member states to be intentional in uplifting and including young persons in the work of the Permanent Forum.

Specifically, we recommend the Special Rapporteur & Expert Mechanisms address the barriers which might affect the ability of Indigenous young persons to attend.

In conversation with North American Youth Caucus members and other young adult persons we offer the following points to address:

  • Inadequate funding is universally cited as a barrier to attending this forum, as well as the high travel costs.
  • Accessibility of the event is crucial. It doesn’t feel like just anyone can go, especially youth, and there is a lack of transparency, as for those who know of UNPFII, most do not know how to attend.
  • Access to information is minimal and many youth do not even know about the existence of the Forum.
  • Visa assistance is needed. Youth are being denied visas to travel to the US for the Forum.
  • Access to UN passes is needed for persons 16-18 years old.
  • Safety & support are essential in the city and at the UN, as both are very disorienting.
  • Safe places are essential for Two-Spirit, LGBTQ+, and non-binary youth.
  • Language and Interpretation barriers need to be addressed.
  • There are no modalities of healing or creative outlets while operating within the UN space.
  • There are limited trainings which are not mutually accessible (varying time zones).
  • There is a need for mentorship opportunities by region.

Addressing these barriers faced by Indigenous youth and young people will ensure a fuller implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which identifies “existing barriers… Indigenous minorities face to ensure no voices are missing in decision making processes.” In the words of Chief Sitting Bull, “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.”

Thank you very much Honored Chairwoman, and Permanent Forum members, for this opportunity to speak.

Delivered April 23rd, 2024

11:21 am EDT

UNHQ, Conference Room 4

About the authors:

  • Ronald Braman was born in Lander, Wyoming, and is an enrolled member of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, Wind River Indian Reservation, Fort Washakie, Wyoming. A lifelong resident of Idaho, Ronald studied voice at Idaho State University, travelling extensively throughout Europe during that time. Ron advocates for the arts, producing classical concerts, and poetry readings, including US Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo. He has hosted events with the Rocky Mountain Writers Festival. He works with the Episcopal Church as a Director of Music in Fort Hall, Idaho, serving as pianist, organist, youth champion, Doctrine of Discovery Trainer, and Sr. Warden, in addition to being a lay worship leader, liturgist, preacher, and deputy to General Convention. He creates tribal shell dress, beadwork, moccasins, and feather work. Tribal ceremonial songs are highly regarded and regularly supported in his community, singing backup (as a Two-Spirit gay man) with local drummers for Sundance, as well as leading songs for Ghost Dance. The work of the UN holds a special place in Ron’s heart for advocacy.
  • Melissa Chapman Skinner is a member of the Húŋkpapȟa (Standing Rock) and Isáŋyathi (Santee) Nations. She holds her Master’s in Legal Studies – Indigenous Peoples Law from the University of Oklahoma as well as her Bachelor’s and Associate in Human Services degrees from Sitting Bull College. In her free time, Melissa loves to spend time with her family and friends, travel to various places but her favorite being a powwow, and work on various beadwork projects. She has worked with the Episcopal Church Indigenous Ministries office for over 10 years, focusing on United Nations advocacy and building community. She is passionate about helping others, especially in Indian Country.
  • Charleigh Bass is a member of the Hōcąk Nįsoc Haci (Winnebago), Húŋkpapȟa (Standing Rock) and Isáŋyathi (Santee) Nations. She is a recent graduate of Central High School in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Charleigh loves to spend time with her family and friends, working with dogs, and a part of the video gaming community. She has grown up in the Episcopal Church, alongside her family and has been involved with youth ministry (Wyld/Young Life). 

Ms. Lynnaia Main

Episcopal Church Representative to the United Nations

Click here