The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People was adopted by the General Assembly in September of 2007 with an overwhelming majority of 143 votes in favor. The only negative votes cast were from some of the Western countries that have historically treated their indigenous communities abominably: namely, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
Now, however, a review is underway by the Department of State, which is considering adopting the declaration into American law.
This would be an important step. As the International Forum on Globalization, a strong proponent of the Declaration, notes, "Although the US adoption of UNDRIP would require no Senate approval or any formal signing ceremony, it could be an important step in advancing the legitimacy of the rights of world’s 370 million indigenous peoples and the indigenous values our world needs so badly to guide today’s global economic transition."
The Declaration’s wording makes concrete the provision of financial help, absolute authority to form different legal and political systems, and the right to redress if any infringement is made to indigenous people’s development. This could mean a big difference in the lives of the citizens of the 562 separate indigenous communities in the United States.
As America’s indigenous people are the most maltreated ethnic group in the country’s history, the legacy of whose suffering stretches back hundreds of years, the least we can do as a nation is to affirm their rights, even if we’re three years late.
Supporting this declaration requires a letter or an e-mail to the State Department, drafts of which can be found here and here. The Indian Law Resource Center has asked supporters to act before October 2010 to urge the US adoption of UNDRIP.