FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Today, on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, the United States affirms its deep and abiding commitment to improving the lives of First Americans. The United States also recognizes the more than 370 million indigenous people who live in some 90 countries around the world. We honor their immeasurable contributions to society and call upon all nations to work together with indigenous communities to meet our common challenges.
Indigenous populations have distinguished themselves in the arts and sciences, in business, in universities and in the spiritual lives of our home countries. Native Americans have proudly represented their tribes, while making tremendous sacrifices defending the United States – from the American Revolution to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have practiced cultural traditions that predate our oldest national institutions, even as they enrich our nation’s cultural institutions.
Still today, in the United States and around the world, indigenous peoples face significant barriers to opportunity. Native Americans have borne a disproportionate brunt of poverty, unemployment, violent crime and discrimination. Previous government policies have undermined their ability to build strong and self-sufficient tribal governments.
The Obama Administration has strengthened the U.S. government’s commitment to our native communities in new ways: by making unprecedented investments to increase educational opportunity, promote economic development, and provide access to health care; by funding tribal governments to address domestic violence and alcohol abuse; and by engaging in frequent, meaningful government-to-government consultations with federally recognized tribes. In 2009, President Obama hosted the largest and most inclusive tribal meeting ever held at the White House, inviting more than 500 tribal representatives to meet with senior Administration officials. Just last week, President Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act to improve public safety on reservations.
As I announced at the United Nations in April, the U.S. government is currently undertaking an unprecedented review of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We are consulting with tribal leaders and reaching out to nongovernmental organizations and other stakeholders for their valued input. We recognize that for many around the world, the Declaration provides a critical framework for addressing the rights of indigenous peoples. It deserves a dedicated and comprehensive review.
While the U.S. has taken several significant steps to date, we must continue to strive to give a greater voice to indigenous peoples and foster genuine positive change in tribal communities, in America and around the world.
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