Obama to support U.N. native rights declaration

Obama to support U.N. native rights declaration

Kevin Abourezk is a higher education reporter for the Lincoln Journal Star and a freelance writer and editor. He has three children and lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Date Posted: 
2010-12-16 00:00

Blog Series:

President Barack Obama announced Thursday at the White House Tribal Nations Conference that his administration will support the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The announcement removes the United States as the only remaining developed country that had not yet embraced the declaration, which recognizes and protects the world’s 370 million indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination and protection of their lands and resources, among other rights.

“The aspirations it affirms – including the respect for the institutions and rich cultures of Native peoples – are one we must always seek to fulfill,” Obama said.

Tribal leaders had long urged Obama to support the declaration. However, Obama said Thursday, his administration will focus on action rather than words in its dealings with tribes in the coming years.

He presented a number of his administration’s accomplishments over the past two years, including boosting investment in tribal roads and offering new loans to improve broadband service to reservations. He also lauded passage last year of health care reform legislation, which permanently authorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. That legislation will help tribes purchase health care for their employees and make affordable coverage more available to Indians.

Passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act will help tribes combat drug and alcohol abuse and have greater access to criminal databases, Obama said. And, just a week after signing the $3.4 billion Cobell v. Salazar settlement, Obama thanked those who steered passage of the settlement by Congress.

“We’re very proud of that and I want to thank all the legislators who helped make that happen,” he said of the settlement. “This will put more land in the hands of tribes to manage or otherwise benefit their members.”

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