Project to Implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the United States

Attorney: John E. Echohawk, Sue Noe, Kim Jerome Gottschalk

After decades of advocacy by indigenous peoples, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007. The Declaration can be an impetus for change, but it is only a framework. Implementation will require sustained effort. Laws and policies must change to fulfill the Declaration’s promises. To that end, NARF and the University of Colorado Law School (CU) created the Project to Implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the United States.

March 2019 Conference

NARF Staff Attorney Heather Whiteman Runs Him leads panel discussion, March 2019

NARF Staff Attorney Heather Whiteman Runs Him leads panel discussion, March 2019

One of the first programs of the CU/NARF Project to Implement the Declaration was held in March 2019. NARF and CU organized a two-day conference on the Declaration. Scholars, advocates, and legal practitioners discussed how to advance the Declaration and strategies for implementing it in the United States. The conference allowed planning for how the Declaration’s aspirations can be turned into reality in the United States. NARF Executive Director John Echohawk explained why that is essential:

“[The Declaration] has language in there that basically supports everything we’re trying to do in our advocacy work—in the courts, in the Congress, in the administration and agencies. There’s something in the Declaration that supports everything we are trying to do. So we need to wrap up that effort and utilize the Declaration more in support of our advocacy work. That’s the main purpose why we are here at this conference, is to refine those strategies and find better ways to use the Declaration to make a difference…”

Essentially, the Declaration acknowledges indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination, equality, property, culture, and other human rights. CU Law School Dean James Anaya described it well:

“The Declaration envisions a future in which the countries of the world embrace and uplift indigenous peoples on fair and equitable terms with effective recognition of their rights to exist as distinct peoples in harmony with the societies that have grown up around them, free from social and economic disparities rooted in histories of mistreatment.”

The conference included discussions on challenges in Federal Indian Law, the role of international human rights in advocacy efforts, cultural rights, climate change and environmental advocacy, business and entrepreneurship, Indian child welfare, as well as technology and communications.Recordings of the conference sessions are available from the NARF YouTube channel.

Welcome Danielle Lazore-Thompson, American Indian Law Program Fellow

NARF and CU staff welcome American Indian Law Program Fellow, Danielle Lazore-Thompson

NARF and CU staff welcome American Indian Law Program Fellow, Danielle Lazore-Thompson (3rd from left)

The Native American Rights Fund warmly welcomes Danielle Lazore-Thompson as the new American Indian Law Program Fellow at the University of Colorado Law School.  In this role, Danielle will be an integral part of the joint NARF-CU Law project working to achieve domestic implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the United States.  She will also assist in the collaboration between NARF and CU Law related to on-going negotiations at the World Intellectual Property Organization for the protection of Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions, and genetic resources.  Danielle is a member of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and a graduate of Tufts University and Cornell Law School.

 

Related: Read more about NARF’s work with indigenous people at the United Nations.