U.N. to Investigate Plight of Native Americans

The human rights status of the nation’s nearly 2.7 million Native Americans will be investigated and suggested reforms given to the U.S. government.

Posted: 04/23/2012 03:11 PM EDT

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples launched the first-ever investigation into the human rights status of the nation’s nearly 2.7 million Native Americans on Monday.

 

"I will examine the situation of the American Indian/Native American, Alaska Native and Hawaiian peoples against the background of the United States’ endorsement of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples," Special Rapporteur James Anaya said. "My visit aims at assessing how the standards of the Declaration are reflected in U.S. law and policy and identifying needed reforms and good practices."

 

Anaya will travel to Washington, D.C., Arizona, Alaska, Oregon, South Dakota and Oklahoma to hold discussions and consultations with federal and state government officials, indigenous nations and their representatives in an attempt to gather information about the human rights of Native Americans.

 

The U.S. endorsed the declaration in 2010, which requires the government to uphold basic protections regarding the rights of indigenous populations within its borders. Many Native Americans still live in federally demarcated tribal areas, where high levels of unemployment, alcoholism and suicide exist.

 

In Nevada, the Moapa Band of Paiutes protested the operation on Sunday of a nearby coal plant over concerns that air pollution from the plant is causing asthma, sinus problems, ear infections and heart disease among residents at the tribe's reservation. The Sierra Club, which joined the protest on behalf of the tribe, also says the plant’s pollution robs tribal members of their traditional lifestyle by forcing them indoors.



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