Washington D.C. –
U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, held an oversight hearing today titled, “Setting the Standard: Domestic Policy Implications of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
“This discussion will help us determine where we go next in the United States’ relationship with our indigenous nations,” said Senator Akaka. “It is important that we all come together to ensure that the rights of our indigenous peoples are preserved – in the U.S. and around the world.”
Today’s hearing explored The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as an international policy goal to which the United States is signatory. Witnesses from the U.S. Department of Interior, the United Nations, the indigenous art community, the Indian Law Resource Center, and several American Indian Tribes answered Committee Members’ questions on how existing domestic policy achieves the declaration’s goals and what additional considerations are needed. Several witnesses called on the Committee to create legislation based on the Declaration to make the U.S. a world leader in universal human rights as well as the rights for indigenous peoples.
Witness testimony and archived webcast: LINK
The UN declaration, which the United States joined in December of last year, encourages nations to support self-determination, eliminate discrimination, and work to secure the rights of their indigenous peoples. The declaration sets out the individual and collective rights of the world’s estimated 370 million indigenous people – including American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians – including the right to perpetuate their culture, identity, and language, and their rights relating to employment, health, education, and other issues.
The declaration was adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007, with 143 nations in favor, 11 abstentions, and four votes against – Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. All of the opposing countries have since reversed their position and support the declaration. President Barack Obama announced the United States’ support of the declaration on December 16, 2010.
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