United States: Announcement Of U.S. Support For The United Nations Declaration On The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples

 

Initiatives to Promote the Government-to-Government Relationship & Improve the Lives of Indigenous Peoples

 

I. Introduction

 

In his Presidential Proclamation last month honoring National Native American Heritage Month, President Obama recommitted "to supporting tribal self-determination, security and prosperity for all Native Americans." He recognized that "[w]hile we cannot erase the scourges or broken promises of our past, we will move ahead together in writing a new, brighter chapter in our joint history." It is in this spirit that the United States today proudly lends its support to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Declaration). In September 2007, at the United Nations, 143 countries voted in favor of the Declaration. The United States did not. Today, in response to the many calls from Native Americans throughout this country and in order to further U.S. policy on indigenous issues, President Obama announced that the United States has changed its position. The United States supports the Declaration, which—while not legally binding or a statement of current international law—has both moral and political force. It expresses both the aspirations of indigenous peoples around the world and those of States in seeking to improve their relations with indigenous peoples. Most importantly, it expresses aspirations of the United States, aspirations that this country seeks to achieve within the structure of the U.S. Constitution, laws, and international obligations, while also seeking, where appropriate, to improve our laws and policies.

 

U.S. support for the Declaration goes hand in hand with the U.S. commitment to address the consequences of a history in which, as President Obama recognized, "few have been more marginalized and ignored by Washington for as long as Native Americans—our First Americans." That commitment is reflected in the many policies and programs that are being implemented by U.S. agencies in response to concerns raised by Native Americans, including poverty, unemployment, environmental degradation, health care gaps, violent crime, and discrimination.




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