International Issues

Securing the collective and individual human rights of Indigenous peoples under international instruments is critical to ensuring the health and well being of Native people within the United States

NCAI recognizes that tribal nations are a vital part of the international Indigenous community, and embraces its role in supporting social progress and better standards of living for all Indigenous peoples, not just those native to America.

In December 2010, the United States endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), recognizing that Indigenous peoples have a permanent right to exist as peoples, nations, cultures, and societies. The contents of the Declaration are directly relevant to NCAI’s efforts to protect tribal sovereignty, promote the right of self-determination, preserve tribal culture, and promote the safety and welfare of Native people. It is time to educate tribal leaders and their attorneys on the rights recognized in the Declaration and its possible uses. Tribes have the unique opportunity to lead by example in their dealings with the United States and to mentor less fortunate Indigenous peoples in other regions of the world.

NCAI has engaged on international Indigenous issues for years. In 1999, NCAI entered into a “Declaration of Kinship and Cooperation among the Indigenous Peoples and Nations of North America” with the Assembly of First Nations in Canada. This document was a formal acknowledgement that, even though Indigenous peoples and nations have distinct identities, cultures, languages, and traditions, many are nonetheless guided by similar beliefs and common experiences. Soon after, NCAI formed a Special Committee on Indigenous Nation Relationships. This committee drafted the historic Treaty of Indigenous Nations, initially signed on November 15, 2007, with several signatories signing in subsequent years. This treaty establishes an international alliance to advance the common interests of its signatories regarding the impacts of climate change, trade and commerce, cultural and intellectual property under international law, protection of human rights, and assertion of traditional border-crossing rights.

Now, NCAI’s work on international issues enters a new phase: education about and implementation of UNDRIP. It is time to educate tribes about the contents of the Declaration and about how to put it to strategic use. When President Obama announced the US government’s endorsement of UNDRIP, he stated in no uncertain terms that “what matters far more than any resolution or declaration—are actions to match those words.” NCAI recognizes that it is time to take on the difficult task of analyzing what actions are necessary to bring U.S. law into conformity with those areas of UNDRIP in which it falls short. We look forward to a process of mutual cooperation between tribes and the United States. to identify existing challenges and formulate solutions on these issues during implementation.

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