U.S. will support UN declaration on indigenous peoples
U.S. President Barack Obama gestures while speaking at the White House Tribal Nations Conference at the Interior Department in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010. (AP / Charles Dharapak)
Published Thursday, December 16, 2010 1:42PM EST
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama said Thursday that the United States will reverse course and support a United Nations declaration defending the rights of indigenous peoples.
Obama told Native American leaders that the declaration affirms the importance and rich cultures of native peoples throughout the world. The U.S. voted against the declaration when the General Assembly adopted it in 2007, arguing it was incompatible with existing laws. Three other countries, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, also opposed the declaration, but have since announced their support.
The nonbinding declaration is intended to protect the rights of more than 370 million native peoples worldwide, affirming their equality and ability to maintain their own institutions, cultures and spiritual traditions. It sets standards to fight discrimination and marginalization and eliminate human rights violations.
Administration officials said last April that they were reviewing the U.S. position on the declaration.
More important than any resolution or declaration are actions to match those words, Obama said, adding that his administration is working to help Indian tribes meet a variety of challenges.
Obama noted that this year he signed laws to improve health care and law enforcement for Native American tribes and helped resolve long-standing disputes over discrimination against American Indian farmers by the Agriculture Department and mistreatment by the Interior Department of those with royalty rights for oil, gas, grazing and timber.