UN officer calls for US return of native lands

UN officer calls for US return of native lands

The UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples has called on the United States to mitigate the “sense of loss” among the Native American community by restoring some tribal lands.

James Anaya, made the comments after a 12-day tour of the United States, during which he met with tribal leaders in the capital as well as in the states of Arizona, Alaska, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota and Washington.

He pointed to the loss of tribal lands as a particularly sore point, naming the Black Hills of South Dakota and the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona as places where indigenous peoples feel they have “too little control.”

Anaya went on the tour to see how well the United States is carrying out the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the administration of President Barack Obama endorsed in December 2010.

He noted that while he visited tribal leaders both on reservations and in urban areas, and met with Obama administration officials, he was unable to meet with members of the US Congress.

Anaya is to draft a report to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council, probably in September, and which will be made public.

Anaya said such measures should be taken “in consultation and in real partnership with indigenous peoples, with a goal towards strengthening their own self-determination and decision-making over their affairs at all levels.”

Last month, the US Justice Department announced that the government had agreed to pay more than $1 billion to 40 Native American tribes to settle lawsuits over federal use of their lands and assets.

The United States is home to some two million Native Americans, who trail national averages in income and health.