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Conference about declaration of rights of indigenous people

Published: June 24, 2012

“U.N. declaration could have extreme results” (Our Views, June 11) referenced a conference held in Catoosa and may have led readers to believe that radical statements were made regarding repatriation of native homelands. As the director of the referenced conference, I assure you this didn't happen.

The International Conference of Indigenous Archives, Libraries and Museums was attended by 560 people from four continents. The opening ceremony celebrated the U.S. endorsement of the United Nations' Declaration on the Rights of indigenous Peoples. Walter Echo-Hawk, a native rights attorney and advocate for archives, libraries and museums, provided the keynote. He addressed how the declaration may help indigenous communities preserve and advance their cultures. At no time did he advocate a “reverse Trail of Tears,” as mentioned in the editorial.

The declaration isn't about “pitting neighbor against neighbor in frivolous litigation over centuries-old grievances,” as the editorial further claims. The declaration defines the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, including their right to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations. It prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them.

The United States, through its endorsement of the U.N. declaration, has affirmed that our government recognizes the need to protect the rights of indigenous peoples, both at home and abroad. It's an important milestone in preserving indigenous cultures and deserves to be interpreted properly.

Susan Feller, Oklahoma City

Feller is president of the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums.


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