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UN expert calls on US to address Native American concerns in land sale

The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples James Anaya on Wednesday called on US officials [statement] to consult with Native Americans in North Dakota about the scheduled sale of land in the Black Hills region of the state. Anaya noted [UN News Centre report] that local Dakota, Lakota and Nakota peoples expressed concern about the sale of the land, which is considered a sacred site. The three tribes expressed concerns that the sale of the land would result and restriction of their use of the land and destruction of the natural landscape. Anaya said that the issue in South Dakota is not unique and that Native Americans throughout the US are struggling to retain access to sacred lands that they no longer own. He called on the US government to engage in a "process of consultation" with the concerned groups and work to come to a resolution.

Anaya announced that he would visit the US in April to launch the UN's first ever investigation into the rights situation of Native Americans [JURIST report]. Anaya's goal was to look into the rights of Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians, and determine how the US's endorsement of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [text, PDF] has affected the rights of these groups of people. The US endorsed [JURIST report] the Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2010, after being one of four member states originally opposed to the treaty when it was adopted by the UN [JURIST report] in 2007. The other countries opposed to it, Canada, New Zealand and Australia [JURIST reports], have all also changed their views and have since endorsed the treaty. This non-binding treaty outlines the human rights issues faced by the more than 370 million indigenous people throughout the world and encourages nations not to discriminate against them. The declaration was debated for more than two decades before it was passed.

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