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A Breakthrough for Indigenous People’s Rights

| by Tom Oconell

The people of the Taman Negara rainforest of Malaysia may find it easier to protect their land thanks to the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People. Photo by wazari, Creative Commons license, NC,ND from Flickr

An historic event in the annals of human progress took place last fall with virtually no media attention in the United States.

After 22 years of negotiations, the United Nations voted 143-4 on September 13 to endorse the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peopleā€”a logical next step beyond the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, passed in 1948.

The declaration affirms two key rights for tribal peoples: ownership of their traditional lands and the opportunity to continue their traditional way of life. The United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand stood alone in objecting to Declaration. All four nations have substantial populations of native peoples who want to reclaim some of their stolen lands.

The State of Maine did endorse the Declaration on April 21, setting the stage for other U.S. states to follow.

See the 2007 story on the UN Declaration: http://www.survival-international.org/news/2501

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