Ambassador Keith Harper speaks at the United Nations. Photo from UN Watch / Twitter
The United States is making progress in addressing racism against Native peoples,
Ambassador Keith Harper said on Wednesday.
In a statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Harper said the U.S. has a "well-documented" history of discrimination against indigenous peoples. He
cited discrimination in housing, denial of religious freedoms and high rates of violence against Native women.
"The fact is that the legacy of the harsh, often brutal treatment of indigenous peoples continues to manifest itself in policies which deny indigenous peoples their rights," Harper said, according to a transcript of his remarks
In a 2012 report, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples singled out violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women as a problem in the U.S.
Harper said the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act in 2010 and the Violence Against Women Act in 2013 will help address the issue.
"That law illuminates one approach to tackling the problem of this enduring discrimination: empowerment of indigenous peoples to regulate the affairs on their own lands," Harper said in reference to VAWA, which recognizes tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians who commit certain domestic violence offenses in Indian Country.
Harper, a member of the Cherokee Nation, was sworn into his post as the U.S. Representative to the UN Human Rights Council earlier this month after winning Senate confirmation on June 3. He has been participating in the 26th regular session and has already encountered some fireworks.
According to UN Watch, Harper was the target of harsh remarks from the representatives of Cuba and Venezuela, whose human rights records have been questioned by the U.S.
He spoke in support of activists from those countries, who were heckled during the session.
“#Cuba trying to stifle dissent at the UN, just as it does at home,” Harper later said on Twitter.
Harper is the first member of a federally recognized tribe to serve in an ambassador-rank post.
Get the Story:
Cuban, Venezuelan Dissidents Harassed at UN Panel
(The Washington Free Beacon 6/19)
Clash at UN: Venezuela and Cuba Reps Heckle Dissidents Testifying at UN Human Rights Council
(UN Watch 6/18)
First Native American US Ambassador Starts UN Job: Cal Alum Focused on Human Rights
(California Magazine 6/18)
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