Former ambassador Keith Harper returns to Washington after United Nations stint

Former U.S. Ambassador Keith Harper, left, with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II at the United Nations. Photo: U.S. Mission in Geneva

Indian Country's representative to the world has returned to Washington, D.C., after a stint at the United Nations.

Keith Harper, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, stepped down as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council on January 18. A flag ceremony was held at the State Department that day to mark the formal conclusion of his service.

“I was humbled and feel distinctly privileged to serve this great nation and President Obama while representing the U.S. at the United Nations Human Rights Council to promote the protection of all human rights around the globe,” Harper said on Thursday as he announced he was rejoining the Kilpatrick Townsend law and lobbying firm, where he worked prior to his diplomatic service.

In addition to getting back into the private sector, Harper has been active on Twitter, sharing his views on foreign policy, international developments and, yes, Republican President Donald Trump. Although he planned to leave the ambassador's post no matter who won the November election, Harper was supportive of Democrat Hillary Clinton and has been extremely critical of the new occupant of the White House.

"Alienating allies, embracing antagonist like #Putin - this is just the first week," Harper said in a January 26 missive. Recent posts have focused on Trump's controversial ban on certain refugees and the president's stance on immigration.

Harper was the first member of a federally recognized tribe to serve in an ambassador-level post. During his time at the U.N., he welcomed tribal leaders like Chairman Dave Archambault II of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to Geneva, Switzerland, and placed a priority on addressing violence against indigenous women and girls.

“Our firm is proud of Keith’s service to the country as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council,” said Henry Walker, the chair of the Kilpatrick Townsend firm. “Before he was an ambassador, Keith helped build our prominent and growing Native American practice. We are excited to have him back as a partner in that practice after serving in such an important role for our nation.”

Harper is well known for his work on the Cobell trust fund lawsuit. As an attorney with the Native American Rights Fund, he was part of the legal team that filed the lawsuit in June 1996. The Obama administration settled the case for $3.4 billion.

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