U.S. adoption of UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights might mislead

An article in Indian County Today warns that the long-awaited U.S. support for the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples may create more questions than answers according to one critic.

Glenn Morris, a professor of political science at the University of Colorado-Denver worked on the Declaration in the 1980s and thereafter. He states that the Declaration can be viewed as an “aspirational document” but that it could merge into international law and culminate in various treaties to protect Indigenous peoples.

He also notes that the Declaration is “not legally binding or a statement of current international law – (but) has both moral and political force.”

The limitations of support for the Declaration are contained in the 15-page official announcement by the State Department, which seeks to “persuade indigenous peoples that we’ve lost our international legal personality – and that is a very serious surrender,” Morris said.
“The U.S. is going to solidify, justify and legitimize its invasion and theft of our homeland.”

Similarly to how the other three No votes in the UN on the Declaration – Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, the U.S. support for the Declaration is contingent on its consistency with existing laws and constitutions, according to Morris.

The U.S. stated in regards the Declaration that “self-determination for indigenous peoples only means internal autonomy within existing states.”

Using this definition, the U.S. State Department said that, in essence, the US was already in compliance with the Declaration: “For the United States, the Declaration’s concept of self-determination is consistent with the (U.S.) existing recognition of, and relationship with, federally recognized tribes as political entities that have inherent sovereign powers of self-governance.”

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