Advocating for Human Rights During a Time of COVID-19


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Native American Rights Fund and University of Colorado Law School
Launch Web Site Serving Indigenous Peoples

Lacking adequate health care and other resources, American Indian tribes are experiencing high rates of infection and death caused by COVID-19. A new website (https://un-declaration.narf.org/) developed by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and the University of Colorado Law School provides resources to help promote the rights of indigenous peoples.

“Today, in a time of crisis, the Native American Rights Fund and University of Colorado Law School launch a joint website to empower Indian tribes in the United States regarding globally recognized human rights,” said NARF Executive Director John Echohawk.

As some states persist in attacking the ability of tribal governments to protect their members from this and other threats to self-determination, culture, land, and welfare, it is more important than ever to protect indigenous peoples’ rights.

Photo of eight people smiling at the camera

NARF – CU Project Staff

The website gathers key resources for tribes and communities, including a United Nations statement regarding the protection of indigenous peoples during COVID-19 and Colorado Law’s 2019 Report on Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the United States.

The site will be an interactive platform for education and training to address not only challenges presented by COVID-19, but also opportunities to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples more broadly.

The Declaration is a worldwide standard-setting document recognizing the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, including self-determination and equality. The United States expressed its support for the Declaration in 2010, but implementation has been lacking.

“The Declaration should motivate and guide steps toward still-needed reconciliation with the country’s indigenous peoples, on just terms,” said Colorado Law Dean James Anaya.

In addition to making information available on the website, Colorado Law faculty and students together with NARF attorneys, in close collaboration with tribes and experts, will develop strategies for realizing the promises of the Declaration in the daily lives American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian peoples.

While some tribes have already passed legislation adopting the Declaration, others have used it in advocacy strategies. “The Declaration is key to protecting the tribal right to exist as peoples and to underscoring our responsibilities to tribal ways of life,” said project partner Judge Greg Bigler, a Euchee tribal member.