One question that has been asked about the Obama Administration is whether they will be a friend to indigenous peoples. The answer to that lies in how they act, and how quickly they act, to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Implementing UNDRIP — among other things — would require repealing NAFTA, abandoning Plan Colombia, ending the Global War on Terror, and prosecuting American corporations involved in human rights abuses around the world. It would also require honoring Indian treaties, including making full restitution for the embezzlement of Indian trust funds and resource royalties by the Department of Interior.
Restoring the environment and establishing protocols for dealing with resolution of grievances related to Indian boarding schools, grave repatriation and territorial boundary disputes would also have to be addressed. Intellectual property rights, international travel and trade would need to be negotiated.
Due to the extent of the unresolved issues between indigenous peoples and the United States, it might behoove the Obama Administration to explore with indigenous institutions the options for cabinet level diplomacy. Due to the dire situation of health and employment in Indian country, this discussion should begin on day one.
The obligation to America’s indigenous peoples is not payback for electoral support; it is a legal and moral obligation based on two centuries of neglecting commitments made by the United States under the US Constitution and international law. A new dawn for indigenous relations would begin by acknowledging that obligation.
(Jay Taber is a political analyst and strategist at Public Good Project.)
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