December 16, 2010

Obama backs UN declaration

What Obama said at the second tribal summit:

Remarks by the President at the White House Tribal Nations ConferenceAnd as you know, in April, we announced that we were reviewing our position on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. And today I can announce that the United States is lending its support to this declaration.

The aspirations it affirms--including the respect for the institutions and rich cultures of Native peoples--are one we must always seek to fulfill. And we’re releasing a more detailed statement about U.S. support for the declaration and our ongoing work in Indian Country. But I want to be clear: What matters far more than words--what matters far more than any resolution or declaration-–are actions to match those words. And that’s what this conference is about. That’s what this conference is about. That’s the standard I expect my administration to be held to.
How some Indians are interpreting this:

UN Declaration Sets New Agenda for US-Indian Relations

By Robert T. CoulterToday, the United States government at last officially endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and joined the international community in recognizing that American Indians and other indigenous peoples have a permanent right to exist as peoples, nations, cultures, and societies.

The United States is the last of the four countries that voted against the UN Declaration in the UN to reverse its position. This endorsement reflects the worldwide acceptance of indigenous peoples and our governments as a permanent part of the world community and the countries where we live. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the most significant development in international human rights law in decades. International human rights law now recognizes the rights of indigenous peoples as peoples, including rights of self-determination, property, and culture.
Note the disparity between "lend its support" and "endorses." That's not a trivial distinction. As one person on Facebook said:"Support" has no currency in the International arena.. "Endorsement" means to fully change their position within the UN systems...sounds like the US taking the path of Canada.No unqualified endorsement

Here's what'll happen next:

Obama adopts U.N. manifesto on rights of indigenous peoples

By Valerie RichardsonObjections to the declaration include its potential to conflict with U.S. law, its failure to define exactly who indigenous peoples are, and its support for tribes seeking claims on lands occupied hundreds of years ago. Article 26 of the declaration states that "indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired."

Before signing, Canada hedged its support by adding that the declaration would be endorsed "in a manner fully consistent with Canada's Constitution and laws," a caveat that was included over the objections of that country's tribal leaders.

The State Department is expected to issue details on the signing that could include similar conditions.

"We're holding our breath to see what the State Department releases," said Kenneth Deer, secretary of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawke in Canada. "We're hoping it's not as mean-spirited as Canada's. That [document] was couched in very restrictive terms, and I don't know how many times it said 'nonbinding.'"
Comment:  The conservative Washington Times was the only media outlet I saw to report on the UN declaration's probable limitations. That's kinda lame.

Unlike most of the Natives who cheered this announcement, I sneered at it. Some of my snarky comments:

Just curious: Instead of saying he'll support the UN declaration, why didn't Obama just sign it then and there?

When asked why he didn't sign it two years ago, since nothing has changed since then, Obama said, "No particular reason. I just didn't get around to it until now."

Obama said actions matter more than words. Translation: Don't count on our limited "support" for the words in the UN declaration to satisfy you. If you do, you'll probably be disappointed.

Heck, "lends its support" could mean the US will "honor" the UN declaration whenever it's convenient without signing it. By definition, "lending" is qualified and impermanent. There's really no reason to be impressed until Obama specifies what his weaselly words mean.

For more on the subject, see Canada Signs UN Declaration and Obama Should Sign UN Declaration.

Below:  "President Barack Obama meets with tribal leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, December 15, 2010."

That's Tex G. Hall--chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation: Three Affiliated Tribes--in the headdress. Although he has a right to wear it--unlike most people--it seems strange to wear it in a business meeting. Maybe save it for ceremonial occasions?

1 comment:

Burt said...

Obama is simply Bush in sheeps clothing. As a politician first, he will say anything publicly to candycoat issues, but in action, he is toothless and ineffective.

Being in office for just two years after great speeches and enticing native women with his charm, I have yet to see any REAL concrete changes or annoucement of changes from Obama.

He invites native leaders to the Whitehouse, I'll give him that, pours them tea and coffee and maybe a few jelly doughnuts and smiles around like a bit player in a cheap community theatre and sends them home patting himself on the back. Where have we seen this before in American history with past US Presidents? Do natives really think he is a first? He is a first in a long time, but he is not a first collectively.

In the real world, Obama would have to challenge federal agencies; corporate energy company execs; state governments that are anti-Indian; the federal land manamgement bureau; the FBI; corrupt tribal leadership and congress members that are racists.

I see everything Obama does now simply as public relations stunts. Muchlike a university president that appoints token Indians and high paid clerks that scurry around as if something is actually getting done when it isn't.

I am not optimistic about Obama and never really felt his election would go anywhere anyway. He is a token African American like the rest!