UN expert calls for stronger action to address serious issues affecting indigenous peoples in the USA

By | 4 May, 2012


WASHINGTON / NEW YORK (4 May 2012) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, urged today the United States of America Federal and State authorities to adopt more robust measures to address the serious issues affecting Native American, Alaska Native and Hawaiian peoples in the country.

Continued and concerted measures are needed to develop new initiatives and reform existing ones, in consultation and in real partnership with indigenous peoples, with a goal towards strengthening their own self-determination and decision-making over their affairs at all levels,” Mr. Anaya said* at the end of his first visit to the country, from 23 April to 4 May.

The UN independent expert noted a number of initiatives taken by the Federal Government to develop consultation policies and open spaces of dialogue with tribes, to settle outstanding claims, to increase funding for federal programs, and to improve education, economic development, and law and order in Indian Country.

The Special Rapporteur, however, drew special attention to the need for adequate measures of reconciliation to overcome the persistent legacies of a history of oppression. “In all my consultations with indigenous peoples in the places I visited it was impressed upon me that the sense of loss, alienation and indignity is pervasive throughout Indian country.

“I heard almost universal calls from indigenous nations and tribes across the country that the Government respect tribal sovereignty, that indigenous peoples’ ability to control their own affairs be strengthened, and that the many existing barriers to the effective exercise of self-determination be removed,” the rights expert said.

“Securing the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands is of central importance to indigenous peoples’ socio-economic development, self-determination, and cultural integrity,” he underscored. “Continued efforts to resolve, clarify, and strengthen the protection of indigenous lands, resources, and sacred sites should be made.

During his twelve-day mission, Mr. Anaya learned that many tribes across the country have capable institutions of self-governance and tribal courts, self-administered social and economic development programs, which have demonstrated significant successes and, with an understanding and knowledge of tribal realities, function at the same time to promote and consolidate indigenous cultures and values.

“I have collected a significant amount of information from indigenous peoples and Government representatives across the country, with a view to assessing how the standards of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples are reflected in United States law, policy and programs at both the state and federal levels, and to identify needed reforms as well as good practices,” he noted.

Adopted in 2007, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, well being, and rights of indigenous peoples around the world. The United States endorsed the Declaration in December 2010.

During his visit, Mr. Anaya had consultations with indigenous peoples, tribes, and nations in Washington D.C., Arizona, Alaska, Oregon, Washington State, South Dakota and Oklahoma, both in Indian Country and in urban areas. He also met with representatives of the executive branch of the federal government and with state government officials.

The UN Special Rapporteur will present detailed observations and recommendations on his mission report in a forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The UN Human Rights Council appointed S. James Anaya as Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples in March 2008. Mr. Anaya is a Regents Professor and the James J. Lenoir Professor of Human Rights Law and Policy at the University of Arizona (United States).


Check the full end-of-mission statement by the Special Rapporteur, here


Learn more, log on to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/indigenous/rapporteur/

See the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N06/512/07/PDF/N0651207.pdf?OpenElement

UN Human Rights Country Page – United States of America: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/USIndex.aspx

For more information and media inquiries, please contact:
In Washington: Deborah DeYoung (+1 202 454 2107 / ddeyoung@unicwash.org)
In New York: Fred Kirungi (+1 917 367 3431 / kirungi@un.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)