Robert Coulter: A fresh start on indigenous rights
"When President Obama meets with Indian and Alaska Native leaders Nov. 5, he should announce that he will embrace the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and work to adopt an American Declaration on the human rights of Native nations. As a starting point for improving the situation of Native nations, this country needs to affirm the fundamental rights of Native nations and individuals. It is a disgrace that the United States has not done so. The U.S. was one of just four countries to vote against the UN Declaration two years ago, and the United States is still following the Bush Administration orders not to negotiate on the American Declaration that is nearing completion in the Organization of American States.

Without a clear public commitment to respect fundamental rights, there is not likely to be any substantial change in the federal government’s continuing discriminatory and unjust treatment of Indian and Alaska Native nations. Without such a commitment to human rights, including treaty rights and federal constitutional rights, federal programs will be little more than temporary measures that can never overcome the economic hardship and deprivation that Native peoples endure. If there were a federal commitment to fundamental justice, Native nations could have a fair chance of overcoming the generations of federal mistreatment and mismanagement.

The White House should make that commitment and reverse the Bush policy of rejecting all measures for indigenous human rights. Native leaders deserve an answer Nov. 5 – a real commitment to respect the human rights of Native nations – and the best way to do this is to endorse the UN Declaration. Leaders of many Indian nations in the United States have demanded this for years, and they will surely demand it Nov. 5 as well."

Get the Story:
Robert Coulter: Obama: Make a fresh commitment to indigenous peoples (Indian Country Today 10/19)

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