Published September 17, 2017
BOULDER – On September 13 and 14, 2017, Indigenous leaders from across the globe came together to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) at the University of Colorado Law School in Boulder, Colorado.
Leading the event was the Dean of the College of Law S. James Anaya with welcome remarks led by Chandra Roy-Henriksen, Chief of the Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Walter Echohawk was the keynote speaker who recently authored, “In the Light of Justice: The Rise of Human Rights in Native America and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” Doug Good Feather, Executive Director of Lakota Way Healing Center, opened the event in prayer both days setting the tone that engaged the heart and mind of everyone present.
The purpose of the event was for all participants to analyze how the Declaration has influenced policy throughout the world as well as outline an ambitious path forward by building on the successes and failures shared by the participating countries. The guiding principles set forth in the UNDRIP sets an international standard regarding the rights and protections of all indigenous communities around the world. Although it is not a legally binding document it represents various levels of commitment from 148 countries to uphold the highest standard of ethical and moral treatment of our Indigenous peoples.
At the end of the first day a cultural celebration led by Doug Good Feather shared several styles of dance which led to an invitation for everyone to participate, providing entertainment and a deeper understanding of indigenous culture. Afterwards, a dinner in the courtyard nurtured existing relationships and inspired new friendships to begin. The next day, six workshops led by keynote speakers were held regarding the Declaration’s road ahead on the following topics: Human Rights, Equality and Right to Development, Self Determination, Participation in Decision Making and Consultation, Lands, Territories and Resources, Indigenous Cultures, Traditional Knowledge and Identities, Education and Health. Workshop attendees then shared their conclusions of what worked, suggestions for the transfer of good practices and strategies to move forward.
Although the United States supports the Declaration, it has yet to implement UNDRIP on a national level. One of the most critical pieces of the Declaration is the concept of “Free and Prior Consent.” Article 19 of theUNDRIP affirms: “States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that affect them.”
The challenge of the federal government according to Walter Echohawk is described in his book, “In Light of Justice”: “Federal Indian Law comes from an 18th, 19th Century foundation of colonialism based on notions of discovery, conquest, plenary power, unfettered guardianship, ideas of racism, and European Ethnocentricity. Any body of rights that rest on that dark foundation are necessarily vulnerable rights whereas the new foundation of modern indigenous rights that come from this declaration rests on notions of justice, equality, nondiscrimination, good faith and universal human rights.”
It is of critical importance that tribal nations lead the charge in influencing everyone throughout the United States to adopt the UNDRIP and stand in support of universal human rights. The Native American Rights Fund and the University of Colorado Law School are working in collaboration to utilize the information gathered during this event to create an implementation strategy to be used in the United States.
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