President Obama endorses the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples!

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Kicking off the second annual White House Tribal Nations Conference this morning, President Obama announced that the U.S. would finally endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)!

The UNDRIP is a non-legally binding human rights instrument which affirms universal standards for the survival, dignity, and well-being of all Indigenous Peoples. It provides a framework for addressing indigenous issues and was adopted by the United Nations in 2007, with the United States as one of only four countries, along with Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, that voted against the Declaration. Australia and New Zealand reversed their initial positions, and on November 12, Canada announced its endorsement of the Declaration as well.

In April 2010, the United States announced it would formally review its position on UNDRIP. Led by the State Department, the Administration held a series of tribal and NGO consultations to review what endorsement of the international human rights declaration would mean for Indigenous populations in the U.S. We are grateful to the Administration for their commitment to ensuring the ongoing engagement and consultation of tribal leaders, federally recognized tribes, and other interested stakeholders throughout this process.

This is a tremendous and long-overdue victory for American Indians in the U.S. – by endorsing the UNDRIP, the U.S. government is affirming its commitment to protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples, both at home and abroad. 

A huge congratulation to all of our Native American and Alaska Native partners and friends for this long-awaited and well-deserved victory!

And a deep and heartfelt thank you to ALL of our activists and supporters who took action to let President Obama know that you support indigenous rights – without your action, support and commitment, this would not have been possible.

Canada Endorses the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

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On November 12th, Canada joined the majority of the world in supporting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The Declaration is a non-legally binding human rights instrument which affirms universal standards for the survival, dignity, and well-being of all Indigenous Peoples.

Adopted by the United Nations in 2007, the United States was one of four countries, along with Australia, New Zealand, and Australia, that voted against the Declaration. Australia and New Zealand reversed their initial positions, and now, with Canada’s endorsement, the United States remains the only country that has not yet endorsed the UNDRIP.

It is past-due time for the United States to endorse the UNDRIP. Unqualified support for the Declaration is fundamental to ensuring that the United States follows international human rights standards for Indigenous Peoples, who are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable peoples in the world. In the United States, nearly 24% of indigenous people live in poverty. Endorsement of the Declaration is critical to demonstrating U.S. commitment to upholding the rights of, and addressing the issues faced by indigenous populations here at home.

In April 2010, the United States announced it would formally review its position on UNDRIP. While we are heartened by President Obama’s leadership in reviewing the U.S. position on the Declaration – we continue to urge that the United States endorse the UNDRIP immediately and without qualifications, affirming U.S. commitment to protecting the rights of Indigenous people both at home and abroad. Show President Obama your support for the UNDRIP by taking action NOW!

Eleni Orphanides contributed to this post.

DIGNITY for the Seventh Generation Coming

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By Dana Gluckstein, Photographer & Activist

DIGNITY: In Honor of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples chronicles my life journey with ninety museum collected photographs created over thirty years. DIGNITY features eloquent writings from icons such as Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Native American Faithkeeper, Oren R. Lyons and celebrates Amnesty International, the Nobel Peace-Prize winning organization, during its 50th anniversary year.

DIGNITY also chronicles centuries of painful struggle for Indigenous Peoples leading to the historic victory of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) recently adopted by 146 nations. DIGNITY is inspirational, bold and explicit with a critical call to action as the United States and Canada voted against this important human rights declaration even after thirty years of UN debate.

Why is it important to listen to the wisdom of the “ancient ones” – the ancestors of the planet’s first peoples? Faithkeeper Oren R. Lyons in his scholarly introduction to DIGNITY states, “A thousand years ago or more, the Great Peace Maker (of the Iroquois) came among our people.. .He said to us, ‘When you sit in council for the welfare of the people, think not of yourself, nor of your family, or even your generation. Make your decisions for the seventh generation coming so that they may enjoy what you have here today. If you do this, there will be peace.’ That is a profound instruction on responsibility that should be the basis for the world’s decision makers today.”

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In Honor of International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples…

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TODAY August 9th 2010, marks the 17th annual International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1994, the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples represents an effort to further strengthen international cooperation in solving the problems faced by Indigenous communities in areas such as culture, education, health, human rights, the environment, and social and economic development.

Help us honor this day: Call on President Obama to endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) now!

Indigenous Peoples are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable peoples in the world. They continue to suffer persistent and widespread discrimination and other grave human rights violations. Past and ongoing colonization and land and resource dispossession have resulted in their impoverishment. The plight of indigenous peoples has most recently been captured in this beautiful photo exhibit created by Dana Gluckstein.

In the United States, nearly 24% of Indigenous persons live in poverty. And Native women in the U.S. are particularly vulnerable – more than one in three Native American and Alaska Native women will be raped in their lifetime and face rates of sexual violence 2.5 times greater than that of women in general in the U.S.  Read Amnesty’s 2007 Maze of Injustice report for more information about the situation facing Native American and Alaska Native women in the United States.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a non-legally binding human rights instrument which affirms universal minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well being of all Indigenous Peoples. It recognizes the right of Indigenous Peoples, as both a collective and as individuals, to fully enjoy their basic human rights – including Indigenous cultural rights and identity and the right to education, health, employment, and language. The UNDRIP publicly opposes discrimination against Indigenous Peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them.

In 2007, the UNDRIP was adopted by the United Nations after a vote by the overwhelming majority of states. The United States was one of four countries, along with Australia, Canada and New Zealand, that voted against the Declaration. However, earlier this year the Administration announced that it was formally reviewing the U.S. position on the Declaration – voice your support and let President Obama know you want to see the U.S. endorse the UNDRIP now!