Today, at the White House Tribal Nations Conference, President Obama made the historic announcement that the United States has reversed its previous negative vote and now endorses the United Nation Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In announcing the change in position, President Obama stated… “And as you know, in April, we announced that we were reviewing our position on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. And today I can announce that the United States is lending its support to this declaration. The aspirations it affirms – including the respect for the institutions and rich cultures of Native peoples – are one we must always seek to fulfill… But I want to be clear. What matters far more than words – what matters far more than any resolution or declaration – are actions to match those words… That’s the standard I expect my administration to be held to.”
The United States is the last of four countries who voted against the Declaration in September 2007 to reverse its vote and to join the international chorus of voices recognizing the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples. Australia, Canada and New Zealand had previously reversed their opposition to the Declaration.
Indigenous peoples world-wide have worked on the Declaration since the late 1970s. The Native American Rights Fund has worked on the Declaration with its client, the National Congress of American Indians, since 1999. The Declaration affirms the collective human rights of Indigenous peoples across a broad range of areas including self-determination, spirituality, land rights, and rights to intellectual property.