Celebrate the 10th Anniversary of UNDRIP!

UNDRIP? What is UNDRIP, and why should we be celebrating it? It’s the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The UN debated over twenty years before coming up with this comprehensive statement regarding the rights of indigenous people. The declaration was finally passed in April of 2007, with only four member nations voting against it. Those Countries were Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States of America. The Bush administration saw little benefit in supporting the rights of indigenous and oppressed people.

In forty-six articles, the declaration emphasized indigenous peoples rights to live with dignity and maintain their own institutions, cultures, and traditions. The articles address both individual and collective rights for cultural identity, education, health, employment, languages, and more.

Article one says indigenous people have the right to the full enjoyment of all human rights and freedoms as recognized in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal declaration of Human Rights, and international law. Many articles deal with protecting and promoting indigenous culture and allowing the people to participate in all the decisions that will affect their lives. Importantly, it confirms their right to self-determination and their rights of land, territories, and resources.

At the end of this post, I will provide a link to the actual declaration so you can read it for yourself. As you do, you will see why the greatest colonizers in the world chose to vote against it. For instance, article eight prohibits individuals from being subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture. At the same time, it prevents any form of forced population transfer or forced assimilation or integration. Since 1830, the United States has implemented at least three removal acts against Native People, and in 1950, attempted forced assimilation through Termination.

Prohibitions spelled out in the forty-six articles are a restatement of the step-by-step actions of the United States government in the elimination of all these right to our Native tribes. The United Nations simply had to categorize, and codify our treatment of our indigenous residents, and the declaration almost wrote itself.

Finally, on December 15, 2010, President Barack Obama reversed the Bush administration’s 2007 no vote and formally endorsed the declaration. The United States was the last of the original four opposing countries to endorse. In his statement, President Obama said, “The aspirations it affirms, including the respect for the institutions and rich cultures of Native people, are ones we must always seek to fulfill. That’s the standard I expect my administration to be held to.”

Technically, the declaration is not legally binding, but it does represent the development of international legal norms. It is still a significant means of eliminating the rights violations against more than 370 million indigenous people worldwide. What do you think?

Click the link below to read the declaration in its entirety.


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