Moral Low Ground

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UN to Investigate Plight of Native Americans

Housing on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, where unemployment runs as high as 80% (Photo: Native American Rights)

The United Nations is set to conduct an investigation into the condition of Native Americans for the first time in the world body’s history.

The Guardian reports that James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on indigenous peoples, will lead the probe, which will begin on Monday. The human rights inquiry will look into the plight of the nation’s 2.7 million indigenous people, many of whom live on reservations beset with high unemployment, substance abuse, an alarming suicide rate, endemic rape and other problems.

“This will be the first mission to the US by an independent expert designated by the UN human rights council to report on the rights of indigenous peoples,” a UN statement read.

Anaya, who is also a professor at the University of Arizona, said:  “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.”

The United States signed the declaration, which “sets out the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues” and bars discrimination against indigenous peoples, in 2010.

“My visit aims at assessing how the standards of the declaration are reflected in US law and policy, and identifying needed reforms and good practices,” Anaya said.

Anaya, who hails from New Mexico and is very familiar with issues facing Native Americans, will visit Washington DC, Arizona, Alaska, Oregon, Oklahoma and South Dakota. The findings of his investigation will be presented at the next meeting of the UN human rights council.

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