Wednesday, 22 October 2008 00:00 By Gemma Q. Casas - Variety News Staff
THE second largest indigenous group of the Northern Marianas is urging President Bush to consider having a dialogue with their “paramount high chief,” Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, before the waters surrounding three northern islands are designated as a marine sanctuary.
The Carolinian Affairs Office Advisory Committee, in a letter to the president, asked the White House to host a round-table discussion on issues about the indigenous people’s rights to their resources around their oceans and lands.
CAO said the Covenant between the CNMI and the U.S. “is not an organic act, which Congress may unilaterally change at its pleasure.”
“The Carolinian and Chamorro people — the CNMI descents — have recognized among themselves as holding native title rights to lands situated in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, including rights over the sea, which co-exist alongside the rights for commercial and recreational fishers,” the group said in its letter to Bush coursed through his senior environmental advisor and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairman James Connaughton.
“These determinations of traditional rights have been handed down from generations to generations,” the group stated.
Connaughton is on island for a fact-finding mission regarding the proposed marine monument.
CAO said the CNMI descent-people first filed their claim on marine boundaries on Dec. 11, 1980.
“These include the rights to hunt, fish, gather and use resources within the area for personal, domestic or non-commercial exchange or communal consumption for the purposes allowed by and under their traditional beliefs and customs,” the group said.
It added that the traditional seasonal hunting of fishes and other native species, passed down from generation to generation, may be impacted by the marine monument proposal.